Often, either as a coach or a line manager it is helpful to support someone identify any unhelpful thoughts that might be getting in the way. Unhelpful thinking is typically in relation to thoughts that are illogical, do not have any evidence and/or are just plain unhelpful.

The following are five examples of unhelpful thoughts that an individual might experience. In a follow-up blog I will also be providing some thinking skills to help you support someone move beyond these patterns of thinking.

Mind Reading

A thought that an individual has where they think or make statements from another person’s point of view, believing them as their own or undoubtedly true. For example, a person who is having a difficult relationship with their line manager might think they have never liked me. Here the person is mind reading their line manager’s thoughts. Often these thoughts are not entirely true and even if they were they’re not helpful to the person.


This happens when somebody takes a thought to an extreme in terms of its lack of importance. For example, a person who has got a job might think I only got the job because there were no other candidates who applied actually discounting themselves and the work they have done in order to get the role.


This is an unhelpful thought where the individual attaches a label to themselves or others. For example, a person who finds it difficult being around other people in social situation might label themselves as boring. This thought is unhelpful as it exacerbates the stress that a person might experience during social situations. 


This happens when a person sees their world in black and white with no shades of grey. For example, a person who is dissatisfied from their work might think about their work that I get nothing from my job which might not always be true.


Tends to occur when an individual experience a low frustration tolerance, particularly to tasks that are not that demanding after all. This might happen for example in procrastination. A person might say to themselves that they do not want to call a particular customer because I can’t stand talking to John. Perhaps talking to John will only take a few minutes, and they can indeed stand talking to them. When challenged around this thinking pattern the person might identify that the task itself is brief and that procrastinating is causing more stress than the task itelf.

There are other unhelpful thinking patterns that sometimes individuals might end up using. Do you find yourself perhaps thinking like this at times? What do you do? In the next post we will be exploring ways to develop thinking skills in yourself and others.