Lose the ‘Should’s’ and move to Could

Jun 06, 2024

The words we choose and the mindset we adopt have profound effects on our daily actions and interactions. One trap we can often find ourselves in is the "should" trap — a word that carries the weight of obligation and guilt. What if we could shift from should to could and open ourselves and our leadership to new opportunities whilst also giving others clarity on our intention.  


Understanding the Impact of 'Should'

When we use "should" we are often reflecting on a duty or an obligation, which can lead to feelings of burden or guilt. It’s a word that looks backward, reflecting on missed opportunities or paths not taken.

When you are on the other side of a should, hearing it can feel like a subtle reprimand, suggesting that we are not meeting expectations or have missed doing something important. Using should, can often leave our communication open to interpretation, decreasing motivation and leaving others to defend themselves.

When we are stuck in the "should" trap we are limiting ourselves and our teams to predefined paths or solutions. It subtly imposes our own biases or constraints on the team, stifling creativity and undermining proactivity.  It can also imply blame and passive-aggressive dissatisfaction, which not only affects team morale but also delays decision-making creating a culture where team members may over-analyse rather than taking action.


So what can shifting to 'Could' do for me?

"Could" on the other hand is about potential and possibility. It introduces the idea of choice and flexibility, encouraging a more creative and open approach to problem-solving.

Using "could" empowers you and your team to think about what is possible, rather than what is expected or obligatory, enhancing motivation and engagement.


Its not just a language shift it’s a mindset shift that’s required.

Shifting from should to could is like shifting from a fixed to a growth mindset.  Embracing a growth mindset means we are open to challenges that present opportunities to learn and grow rather than seeing them as a set of obstacles that enforce a rigid set of responses.

As leaders if we can adopt a proactive stance, we can actively look for opportunities to innovate and improve rather than passively adhering to the status quo.


Time to make a change?  Here are some practical steps to get you started:

  • Start with awareness and tune into how often you use "should" in your daily conversations and decision-making processes.
  • For each "should," ask yourself, "What am I actually trying to achieve?" This helps identify the underlying goals and opens up alternative approaches.  Get clear on your intention.
  • If you actively replace "should" with "could" in your communication, what opportunities can it create? For example, instead of saying, "We should update our process," try "We could explore new ways to update our process. What are some ideas?"
  • When presenting options, use "could" to outline potential actions and their outcomes. This not only provides clarity but also demonstrates a thoughtful consideration of different possibilities.

Shifting from "should" to "could" not only gives you the benefit of adopting more intentional and empowering language, it also gives you an insight to mindset. This small change can lead to significant improvements in how you make decisions and lead your team. Creating a culture that embraces possibilities paves the way for continuous improvement and learning.

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