Shirley's Articles / Speaking with Confidence

2 Common Barriers To Building Ideas

Do you need to have conversations to come up with new ideas? Perhaps you’re discussing how to get new clients, how to automate a process, or how to satisfy an angry customer.

All these situations, and many others, require a collaborative conversation in which the ideas of two or more people are better than thinking alone.

What gets in the way?

Unfortunately, even though our intention may be to collaborate, our human brain is designed in many ways to think like a one-man show. That’s why phrases like ‘I think’, ‘I have an idea’ and ‘I suggest’ are so common.

To get the most out of a ‘group think’ session, avoid two barriers that often block collaboration:

1. Ego

We are often polite enough to acknowledge another person’s contribution. But it’s common to quickly move on to an idea of our own.

“That’s a great idea. That would help us speed up our processes, but here’s what I was thinking …”

“Yes, I love your idea. I think there are lots of possibilities there. Here’s something I think might also work though …”

Comments like these make us appear to have considered their idea. But they also prevent us from investing thought and time on what may have been a great beginning worth building on.

2. Yes, but …

These two little words are idea killers! And many people use them so naturally. Our brains are designed to think we’ve understood an idea instantly and immediately search for danger, risks and reasons for potential failure.

“Yes, but what if it doesn’t sell? Then we’re stuck with a huge inventory.”

“Yes, but I’m not sure she will go for that. We proposed something similar last years and she was dead against it.”


  • If you tend to resort to these unhelpful topic turners, try writing down or making a metal note of your idea and your concerns. You can raise them later in the conversation. Then for the moment devote yourself to exploring their idea fully.
  • Instead of saying “Yes, but …”, try switching to “Yes, and …” You’ll be surprised what comes out of your mouth next.

Building ideas means adding to ideas. These common barriers end up subtracting ideas from the conversation. By avoiding them, you’ll have a better chance of building something great – together!

Article written by Marianna Pascal

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Shirley is an international bestselling author. She has established herself as a leading authority in email and business writing skills. Her international bestseller Model Business Letters, Emails & Other Business Documents 7th edition sold over half a million copies worldwide and has been translated into 17 languages. Her book Email Essentials reached #2 in the USA for publishers Marshall Cavendish International. Find out more about Shirley at

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