Are You Letting a Lizard Ruin Your Relationships?

Do you ever wonder why some people do the things they do?

We all have our own unique perspectives and experiences. Our unique point of view is the lens through which we view the world.

The good news is we’re all different.

The bad news is sometimes we forget that.

One of the things I’ve noticed about people, including myself, is that we often assume others have the same internal desires and motivations as we do.

Or rather, we believe others are like us until they do something we don’t like. Then we make all kinds of negative assumptions. Ever said or heard any of these?

I can’t believe he did that; he’s just trying to annoy me.

She put us last on the agenda; she’s trying to sabotage my team.

They cut the resources for our project; they want us to fail.

It’s funny: sometimes all it takes is one action we don’t like, and we immediately jump to the conclusion that the other person wishes us harm. It’s amazing how quick and willing we are to attribute others with bad intent.

It’s almost as though we believe we can read their minds. You did this, so it must mean that. Because if I did ABC, it would surely mean XYZ, so it must be the same for you.

Case in point: people who assume that the other political party is trying to ruin our way of life, or that a co-worker is trying to derail their career, or a that neighbor is trying to make them feel left out.

In reality, the negative motivation that we’re often so quick to attribute to others is really just a product of our own minds, which is, of course, exactly where the problem lies.

There’s a little part of your brain at the base or your skull called the reptilian brain.  

Small and reactive, the reptilian brain resembles the mind of, well, a lizard. It’s a few inches below your more evolved frontal lobes, and its job is to protect your from harm.

Picture a beady-eyed, little lizard clutching a cracker crumb as his eyes dart from side to side trying to protect his bounty.

Unfortunately, the lizard brain can’t tell the difference between a threat to your life or a threat to your ego.

That’s why when someone cancels your meeting, or doesn’t pay appropriate attention to your cause, or cuts you off in traffic, or makes you feel threatened in any way, it can feel like they’re intentionally out to get you.

But the little voice in your head telling you how malicious and devious they are isn’t your higher mind talking; it’s your less evolved little lizard brain.

Ignited by fear, once it takes over your internal chatter, it can sound like the voice of logic and reason.

The little lizard is quick to attribute bad intentions to others because it’s convinced that world is out to get his cracker crumb. The lizard brain doesn’t care if you’re lonely or unhappy; it just wants to make sure you get to keep your cracker. So it assumes the worst about everyone.

But the reality is the lizard can’t actually read other people’s minds any more that you can. Just because people have different perspectives doesn’t mean they wish you or anyone else harm.

Next time someone does something you don’t like, don’t let a judgmental little lizard convince you they’re evil. Think with your big brain and give them the benefit of the doubt.

Lisa Earle McLeod is an author, columnist, keynote speaker and business consultant. The founder and principal of McLeod & More, Inc, she specializes in sales and leadership training. Her newest book, The Triangle of Truth, has been cited as the blueprint for “how smart people can get better at everything.” Visit for a short video intro.   Copyright 2010 Lisa Earle McLeod.  All rights reserved.