I have been studying unconscious behaviour for more than 30 years – first in clinical practice as a psychotherapist, and now in working with senior people in engineering and science to gain influence and win stakeholder buy-in.
All of us behave unconsciously in the main. Throughout the day, we will go in and out of trance. Controversial? OK, you’ve had a hard and demanding day at work. You come home and switch on the TV and slump on the sofa. You slip into trance, mesmerised by the screen. Or when driving your car, you arrive at your destination and then realise that you’ve driven through several traffic lights without being at all aware whether the lights were green. You have been in a light trance. As I said, alot of behaviour is unconscious.
In Transactional Analysis, developed by US psychiatrist, Eric Berne in the 1950s, each of us has a life ‘script’, an unconscious set of decisions in childhood that form a pattern that can drive us unconsciously in adulthood. There are many of these ‘Drivers’ though classically there are 5 favourites:
- Be Perfect
- Hurry Up
- Try Hard
- Be Strong
- Please Me/Others
They are pretty self explanatory. One or more may leap out at you as your favourites. The leading ones for me are “Be Perfect”, “Try Hard” and “Hurry Up” though the others have come into play. These Drivers become huge assets to you in the right circumstances. Under pressure they undermine your performance. Let’s look at how they manifest in giving presentations:
5 Drivers In Presentations
Be Perfect – as a presenter, you are very prepared and impress with your appearance. You have done your homework and offer a high standard of information. However you are hypercritical of your performance and could lose sight of your audience in your concern to give the perfect presentation. Your anxiety can undermine your confidence. On the other hand, you may bolster yourself too much and come across as arrogant and attract criticism.
Hurry Up – you create a sense of urgency and immediacy about your presentations. It can be energising, exciting even. However the down side is that you may not have prepared as well as you needed to and come across as slapdash and flaky. You may also ruin your performance by rushing and lose your audience.
Try Hard – you are conscientious and put a great deal of effort into your presentation – even to staying on after hours to add the finishing touches. Your trying hard can become anxiety since every presentation is a big deal for you. You can work yourself up into a lather and lose sight of priorities. Then you’ll come across as tense, nervous and hesitant or deliver in a monotone.
Be Strong –you are self reliant and resourceful and as a result come across with gravitas and substance However you may be seen as aloof and withdrawn since you are impassive and unexpressive. You come across as formidable and don’t get audience engagement because you withhold yourself.
Please Me/Others – you have a talent for finding what will please your audience and win engagement from them. You charm them with your concern to be helpful. Though you can annoy with your habit of agreeing with whatever is said and come across as too submissive. If an audience believes they can dominate you, they lose respect and credibility for you and your message.
As you’ll realise, these Drivers are blessings or curses dependent on the context. As I said, done to extremes, they undermine your performance. There is a fine line between support and control.
My advice is to become aware of who you are. Use whichever Driver you experience as a asset and support, not there to control and dominate you. For them to become your finest assets, you need to develop a relaxed awareness.