Personality Types in a Crisis

Personality types in a crisis: How Drivers explain your reaction to Covid-19

Have you been rushing around doing every online workshop, exercise class and zoom quiz since lockdown began?

Perhaps you feel the need to hide your emotions and “be strong” for your friends and family, during times like these?

Maybe you’re someone who constantly feels the need to be perfect – home-schooling your children, cooking them delicious and nutritious meals every night, while simultaneously acing your full-time job?

In Transactional Analysis, we call these aspects of your personality “Drivers”.

Drivers are ways we learned to adapt to our environment when we were young. They are developed at an age when we can understand what is approved and disapproved of by the adults around us.

As children we attempt to adapt to grown-up’s expectations, in order to feel ok about ourselves. We pick up the verbal and non-verbal messages and act accordingly.

Taibi Kahler, who developed this theory, noticed there were five sets of behaviours that people consistently displayed. These were divided into five categories, which he called Drivers.

Drivers are double-edged swords and they all have positive and negative attributes.

One struggle with Drivers is that people tend to make themselves feel “not ok” if they slip out of them. For example, if you were the “be perfect” working mum and found that one area of your life was slipping during the Covid-19 lockdown, you might be overwhelmed with negative, self-critical thoughts and feelings.

The key to making Drivers work for you is self-awareness. Once you can identify “Drivers”, you can get a better understanding of your own and other people’s behaviours.

Better self-awareness has been found to increase self-esteem, improve relationships, help manage stress and improve quality of life.

The last few months have been a struggle for many, with financial worries, loneliness and isolation putting a strain on our physical and mental wellbeing.

During this time, you may have looked at others and wondered why and how they are reacting to the situation in such an opposing way to you.

The way we cope during a crisis, can say a lot about our learned behaviours or Drivers.

If someone looks like they’ve created the “perfect” lockdown life, it may be that they have a strong “Be Perfect” Driver, while someone who has thrown themselves into work and created hundreds of new projects might be more “Try Hard”.

Most people have two main Drivers. Can you identify yours from the list below and consider them in relation to your reaction to Covid-19?



Widened eyes, raised eyebrows, nodding, toothy smile, horizontal forehead lines, looks up with head down, goes up at the end of a sentence, uses qualifying words (sorta, kinda, ok).


Good team member, enjoys being with others and aims to please without being asked. Understanding and empathic.

Uses intuition. Notices body language and other signals. Encourages harmony in groups/teams. Invites quieter members into discussion. Considerate of others feelings.


Avoids any risk of upsetting someone and therefore does not to challenge ideas (even if wrong). Cautious with criticism and can then be ignored. Appears to lack commitment.

Presents own views as questions, appears to lack assertiveness, critical faculties and courage of convictions.

Takes criticism personally even if constructive. Allows others to interrupt.

Trying to “read minds” can lead to not asking for necessary information and feeling misunderstood when others don’t like results.



Upright erect posture, precise, look up to right frequently. Mouth goes slightly out, counts on fingers. Even, steady tone. Language often over-detailed and uses parentheses. Steepling hands.


Accurate, reliable worker, checks facts thoroughly and prepares well. Good attention to detail, well organised, looks ahead, plans well with contingency plans. Smooth, efficient well coordinated projects with progress monitored. Cares about how things look.


Cannot be relied upon to produce work to deadlines, as may check too carefully and often for mistakes – keeps asking for minor changes and does drafts rather than final versions. Finds it difficult to incorporate others’ input. Misjudges level of detail, always applies high standards to self and others, failing to recognise when good enough is good enough. Demotivates through criticism. Problems delegating. May feel worthless and dissatisfied.



Hand on side of cheek or behind ear; peering – lines on forehead and around eyes as a result of screwed up face. Tone strangled, tense, muffled, choked back. Incomplete sentences. Words such as try, hard, difficult, can’t think. Body moves forward.


Tackles things enthusiastically, energy peaks with something new to do. Others value motivation and ability to get things off the ground. Popular. Problem solver. Volunteers for new tasks. Follows up all possibilities. Finds out the implications of everything. Pays attention to all aspects of a task, including what others overlook.


Yes but…….more committed to trying than succeeding. Initial interest wears off before task is finished. Others may resent not doing the interesting bits when they are left with the mundane bits. Makes task impossibly large. Creates havoc with time schedule. Written work full of irrelevant details. Communication may be pained, strained and frowning – listeners become confused. Gripes and sabotages.



Erect, stoical posture, face expressionless, few wrinkles, monotone, long pauses, short sentences; fine. Absence of feeling words; uses one, it, and distancing pronouns.


Stays calm under pressure. Feels energised when having to cope. Good in a crisis. Thinks logically when others panic. Stays emotionally detached, problem solves, deals with stressed people. Can make unpleasant decisions without torturing soul. Seen as reliable and steady. Handles others, firmly and fairly. Gives honest feedback, and constructive criticism. Even tempered.


Hates admitting weakness: failure to cope is weakness. Gets overlooked rather than ask for help. Hides work away – tidy appearance. Highly self-critical. Others feel uncomfortable about lack of emotional responses – hard to get to know robots or masked people whose smile does not extend to eyes. Fears being unlovable, so doesn’t ask for anything, lest it’s refused. May become absent minded and withdrawn.



Agitated gestures; looks at watch; fidgety. Screwed up face, eyes moving around. Rapid staccato tone. Words such as quick, got to.


Works quickly and gets a lot done in a short time. Responds well to short deadlines – energy peaks under pressure. Enjoys having too many things to do:  if you want something done give it to a busy person. Prepares quickly, saves time on tasks to spend with people. Juggles.


Delays starting until deadline is near. Makes mistakes in haste; corrections can take time and thus misses deadlines. Quality of work may be poor. May come across as impatient. Rushes with crammed diary, doesn’t get to know people, feels like an outsider.


Interested to learn more about this and other TA Theory? The Link Centre offers everything from a two-day Introduction to Transactional Analysis (TA101) to an accredited Diploma in Counselling.

We are also running a series of by-donation online workshops on different topics throughout July. For more info go to or email [email protected]

Got questions about our counselling and psychotherapy courses? We’re hosting an online open evening on 29th July, 6.30pm-8pm.

Words: Laura Nikita Mitchell


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