Ask Zephyr: I Hate My Instructor’s ‘Tough Love’ Approach!

Ask Zephyr cat microscope

Just when you thought you had nowhere to turn to air your driving dilemmas—he’s back! Zephyr has awoken from what we’ll call his delayed winter hibernation (basically just a hell of a cat nap) and is ready and raring to answer any queries you may have. As long they’re about driving or small shiny objects, that is.

To be fair to him, February was a very short month, so he didn’t miss out on much. Just the odd record-breaking storm and a potential pandemic. No biggie.

The important thing is that he’s here now and about to drop some seriously handy advice! So, who’s up to gain some wisdom today? It’s a learner from York who’s struggling to adjust to his driving instructor’s ‘tough love’ approach. Yikes! Let’s see what our resident expert has to say on the matter…

*Note: Zephyr’s opinions are entirely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of PassMeFast. His advice is bang on, though.

Dear Zephyr,
My instructor takes a ‘tough love’ approach  when it comes to critiquing my driving and it’s really starting to affect my confidence behind the wheel. Whenever I make a mistake, he shouts at me, which means I’m constantly on edge in the car. To make matters worse, he doesn’t even offer me praise when I do things right. I really don’t respond well to this kind of teaching—I hate it! I want to ask him to stop but I’m scared he’ll laugh at me or brush it off. What can I do?
— Shattered Self-esteem, York.


Oh dear, Shattered Self-esteem, you’ve found yourself in quite the pickle! Selecting the right driving instructor is a really important part of ensuring you’re able to successfully earn a licence. If there is tension in this relationship, it can have a detrimental impact on your ability to get test-ready. Do not fret, though, as it is not too late to fix this issue!

Zephyr the cat yawning or shouting

First of all, try to see things from your instructor’s perspective. He probably has quite a bit of experience teaching learners to drive and may have found that this tough love approach really works for some people. On the other hand, if he hasn’t been an instructor for long, he might not be as savvy to the fact that different people require different teaching styles. Take me, for example. If you offer up a tasty treat or throw me a couple of belly rubs, I’m happy to play nice and cuddle. On the flip side, I find being spoken to in a ridiculous baby voice deeply patronising. You can expect a butt to the face or WORSE. Some other cats love that crap, though.

Judging by your letter, you already know what you have to do. This is one of those instances where the solution to the problem can be found in the cause: communication. In order to combat your instructor’s unhelpful communication style, you’re going to have to talk it out with him. I’d recommend doing this when the car is stationary and the engine is off—so at the beginning or end of your next lesson.

The talk

If you’re worried about it, practice what you want to say beforehand. Try to keep your emotions calm and explain as simply and clearly as you can that his current approach to lessons is having a negative impact on your confidence. In an effort to keep things civil, I’d avoid directly placing the blame on him. You could even throw in some positive feedback regarding the things he does well (if you can think of any)! Everyone loves a compliment sandwich.

Insider tip: If you’ve booked your lessons with a company like PassMeFast, you can always get your CX Adviser to have a word with your instructor on your behalf instead. An intermediary can be really helpful in this kind of situation.

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut when you’ve done a job for a long time, but instructors need to approach every learner as an individual. As soon as you mention that the tough love approach bothers you, it should be fairly easy for your instructor to switch up his technique.

So, rip that band aid off and have the chat you’ve been dreading. I bet it won’t be half as bad as you think!

Zephyr’s top tips: Instructors who take the ‘tough love’ approach

Cartoon of driving examiner

  • When learning to drive, try to utilise learning techniques that have worked for you in the past.
  • Give your instructor’s approach a try for at least a couple of lessons—they do often know what’s best!
  • If something your instructor does or says upsets you in any way, try to make them aware of this ASAP.
  • Confidence behind the wheel does not come easily, so don’t expect to feel comfortable in the driver’s seat right away.
  • Serious conversations can be daunting—do some preparation beforehand.
  • Whatever the situation, try not to let your emotions get the better of you.

Ah, we’ve missed our furry little friend. The good news is he’ll be back with more useful advice next month—promise!

Until then, as always, you can keep track of his daily happenings and high jinks over on Instagram @ZephyrCurl . Rumour has it he’ll be posting a lot more frequently now that he’s refreshed from his nap!

Got a driving-related query that requires some whiskered wisdom? Leave it in the comment section below and Zephyr may answer it in a future post!

By Zephyr the cat

Zephyr is the PassMeFast office cat—cute as a button and wise beyond his years. Curiosity certainly didn’t harm this feline, it just made him a fountain of driving knowledge! When not dishing out sterling automobile advice, you’ll find him taking a well-earned nap or chasing balls of tin foil.

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