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Human Misconceptions: Our Mind Saboteurs

Updated: Jan 27, 2021

This is the second article of the “Human Misconceptions” series, aiming at capturing the various types of misconceptions, explain the reasons behind them and suggesting practical hints on how to tackle them. If you haven’t read the first article of the series, click here.

Communication is part of our lives. At home, at work, with friends, etc. In verbal, non-verbal and written form. And when communication breaks, this results in broken relationships, failed projects or deadly accidents. And this creates anger, hate and disappointment.

But why do communications break? Why are the messages not well-sent nor well-received? When we communicate, we make a major false assumption: That the behavior of the sender and the receiver is appropriate enough for the message to be passed through. That the words used, the body posture, the voice of the communicators, etc. match well enough for to occur. And what determines behavior? The answer is our mental state.

There is a book by Shirzad Chamine called “Positive Intelligence”. In this book the author describes a set of habitual mind patterns we all have, and which sabotage our mental state. For that reason, he calls them “Saboteurs”. We each develop our Saboteurs early in childhood in order to survive the perceived threats, physical and emotional. By the time we are adults, they have become invisible inhabitants of our lives. The Saboteurs are:

The Judge: compelling you to always find faults to yourself and others, pointing fingers.

The Stickler: your need for perfection, order and organization, taken too far.

The Pleaser: forcing you to get acceptance and affection by helping, pleasing, rescuing or flattering others.

The Hyper-Achiever: making you dependent ot constant performance and achievement in everything you do.

The Victim: making you feel emotional and temperamental as a way of gaining attention and affection.

The Hyper-Rational: pushing you to intensively and exclusively focus on rationalizing everything.

The Hyper-Vigilant: making you always worry about what could go wrong.

The Restless: pushing you to constantly search for excitement and never stop.

The Controller: urging you to take charge of things, control situations and ignore other people’s will.

The Avoider: makes sure that you are not take on unpleasant tasks or are involved in conflicts.

It is scientifically proven that we all have some of those Saboteurs, to some extent each, we just do not know or realize it.

Here is a couple of examples on how they affect us:

Example 1: Rob-Team member [pleaser]: “Hi Jess, I was wondering if you need any help with the project management plan you must deliver by Thursday. I want to give you a hand and be part of the project.”

Jess-Project Manager [controller, stickler]: “Hi Rob, I think that there is a misunderstanding here. I am the project manager, and it is my duty to deliver it. Why don’t you focus on the requirements documentation you have been assigned on to?”


Example 2: Sarah-Business Analyst [Judge, Restless]: "Hi Nicholas, you had told me that the procurement approval process involves 3 approval steps, based on the requestor, the amount of the order and the budget availability. I have spent the whole night looking at all possible combinations and there are several exceptions that your rule didn’t not cover. I failed to deliver the spec on time due to your failure in providing sufficient detail of information."

Nicholas-Key User [Victim, Avoider]: "Sarah, I’m tired of always being accused for not doing my job well. I had a ton of other work to do and instead of appreciating my time you are shouting at me! I will tell Jess that it was my fault, the last thing I want is to have a conflict with you.”


Our Saboteurs affect our thoughts. Our thoughts affect our mental state. Our mental state affects our communication. The way we communicate is affected by our Saboteurs in every single minute. And communication breaks.

How should we tackle this challenge? The first step is to recognize our Saboteurs each time we interact. Ask yourself “who is talking right now? Is it my Judge or my Stickler?” It is crucial that you are aware of your own Saboteurs and their power on you.

The second step is to identify the Saboteurs of your interlocutor and adjust your message accordingly. There is certainly a better way for Rob to ask for his involvement in the project management plan in Example 1: Rob-Team member [pleaser]: “Hi Jess, I realize there is a lot for me to learn in making effective project management plans. You are the most experienced project manager in the company, and I would really like to attend your project management planning sessions. I can do anytime you can, no limitations. I believe I will learn a lot from you. I could even take on some tasks, under your supervision of course, what do you think?”.

Wouldn’t that type of communication increase the odds for Rob to get what he wants from a controller/stickler project manager?

The third step has to do with turning this process in to a habit. Repeat steps 1 and 2 for many times on a daily basis, for a month. At the end of each day note down how many times this process occurred to you. You will see that after some days you will start doing this unconsciously, and this is exactly when it becomes a habit.

Communication is highly affected by our mind saboteurs. Acknowledge them and you will realize which saboteur is taking over you. Identify other people’s saboteurs and you will be able to adjust your communication in order to get what you want. We have created this form to help you do this. Just try it!

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