How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
A script is a set of rules for how one or more people should behave in a particular situation.
Our lives are full of scripts for events from simple greetings to how we should develop our careers. We use these scripts not only to guide what we say and do, but also to make sense of how others are behaving and how they should behave.
Many different types of script have been described, including:
There is a whole script for how people greet people at the front door and invite them into their house, with words and actions for all actors.
A family has a script for when the father comes home drunk, the mother gets annoyed, the children hide and the man is repentent the next day.
The term 'script' is quite appropriate, being taken from the instructions for theatrical plays, where actors speak the words and act in predetermined ways. Our whole lives can hence be seen as a set of overlapping theatrical performances.
Scripts are often shaped by the values and social norms. We seek to fit in with others and so comply with social rules and guidelines that will help this goal. Social hierarchies have a significant effect here, with specific scripts used for achieving and sustaining the status of individuals and groups.
The repetition that scripts enable create both comfort for both the actor and those around. Scripts allow us to predict how others will behave and so helps fulfil our need for a sense of control. Likewise, we send 'I am safe' signals by following scripts ourselves. In this way, values and scripts together lead to socially prescribed ways of behaving.
Scripts also embed good practice. They typically imply 'this is the most effective way'. When we find something that works, we repeat it until it becomes the 'right way' of doing things and effectively turns into a script. We may also share it with others until it gets to the point where people who are not following the script are seen as being foolish or bad in some way.
See the scripts that you use and that others use around you. Conform with the scripts if you want to get agreement. Trigger scripts if you want them to be played out. Interrupt scripts if you want to cause confusion, possible conflict and change.