Avoiding Thinking Traps
Tuesday Tip #13: Avoiding Thinking Traps
7 Nov. 2017

Today’s tip is is about avoiding Thinking Traps.


Thinking Traps are the automatic and irrational ways of thinking or responding to events and life that we have built up over a lifetime. Generally, thinking traps are when your emotional response does not match the importance of a situation.

It might be reading an email or text message and jumping to a negative conclusion about what the writer was feeling or meaning, it might be thinking that the ding you just got in your car is catastrophic and will ruin your life; it might be personalising or blaming yourself for adversity over which you had no control.

Do any of the following thinking traps seem familiar to you?

  • ‘Should’s and Must’s’ thinking – having a template in your head about the way the world should or must be in order to feel OK
  • ‘Black and White’ thinking – thinking in all or nothing terms and failing to understand things may be a little bit “grey”; this often includes thinking in “right or wrong” terms
  • Jumping to conclusions – thinking you know the meaning or reasons behind a situation or event despite having little evidence that this is the case
  • Overgeneralising – settling on global beliefs about something or someone based on one event
  • Catastrophising – thinking of a negative event is the end of the world – keeping bad news in perspective
  • Personalising – the tendency to attribute the cause of an adversity to one’s personal actions and characteristics
  • Tunnel Vision – focusing on one aspect of a situation without seeing the whole picture
  • Mind-Reading – assuming you know what the other person is thinking

But how should we do this? Firstly by being aware – read our list of common thinking traps above and identify which ones you commonly use. Think about a time you have fallen into this trap recently and then challenge that thought. Was that thought rationale in retrospect? Is there another way of thinking about that situation? How will you try and think if faced with a similar situation into the future?

Avoiding thinking traps can and does have a powerful impact in so many ways including your resilience and your leadership performance. Give it a try and see how you go.

Contact PeopleScape today to discuss your leadership development and how we can help you beat thinking traps and become a more effective leader.

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