Groupwork Centre Blog

9 Common listening mistakes that sabotage your collaboration

Big blank brick wall, painted dull blue with a plain grey border

Collaborative leaders: beware of listening blocks ... Photo by Patrick Tomasso 208114-Unsplash

Serious about leading or working collaboratively? Everyone you work with needs to know that their input is valid and valuable. Regardless of our situation in life, most of us want to feel heard. 

In fact, it requires conscious practice to listen actively. The good news is that it costs nothing but your focus and presence, and is great for nurturing relationships.

You may feel you’re a great communicator, but how often do you fall into these traps?

Trap # 1: Agreeing

While this may work in a casual chat, it isn’t appropriate for deeper listening. If you agree with some part of what they’re saying, it can take the focus away from them – they may feel that now they should focus on you.

It may also be difficult for them to change their mind later and take a different position.

Trap # 2: Putting in your own story

You may think you’re being helpful when you respond by talking about your own experience you’ve been reminded of, but in doing this, you’ve steered the conversation into being about you.

Trap # 3: ‘Brick walling’

When you can’t or won’t allow anything to get through, there’s no possibility of collaboration. It’s reasonable that you want to protect yourself from possible scary outcomes, but this trap stunts the growth of trust and openness.

Trap # 4: Reassuring

It seems like such a caring thing to do, especially when a person is talking about something that makes them feel sad or bad about themselves. But if you try to reassure them, it disregards the importance of what they’re feeling because you’ve dismissed their concern. You’d be more effective simply listening, giving them space to explore their responses and allowing them to come to their own more positive conclusions.

If you tell them that ‘all will be well’, or that whatever they’re saying about themselves isn’t true, they’re unlikely to believe you anyway. And they won’t feel heard.

Trap # 5: Arguing back with ‘logic’ or denial

It’s so tempting to cut them off and explain or deny when you don’t agree. Save it until it’s your turn!

Trap # 6: Not putting aside your own feelings temporarily

It’s hard to hear when you have inner voices busy defending your position. You can learn to hear your internal reactions and manage these to make a clear space for listening.

Trap # 7: Disagreeing

This is a more obvious thing to avoid. There will be time for you to express your opinion when it’s your turn.

Trap # 8: Judging and thinking ahead

Ever find yourself leaping ahead in your mind when people are talking? You can’t focus on them AND work out the reasons behind their words or how to tell them that idea you’re just dying to share.

Trap # 9: Solving or jumping in with advice

When you do this, it’s unlikely they’ll take up your wonderful idea anyway! The best solutions are usually those that someone develops themselves, after feeling really heard.


In training with us, we look at how you can develop your self-awareness around these traps and many other skills in working effectively with others.

We encourage you to join our short course on collaborative leadership, or if you’re interested in this learning for you and your team, we provide customised in-house collaborative leadership training to meet your learning needs.

Comments are closed.