Could have, would have, should have
Words are distinct, even when they are presumed to go together.
In a new INC newsletter, Jeff Hagen flags words that prompt increased achievement in people and organizations. One of them is “could.” He notes that the word we often use is “should,” which tends to make choice binary. Should we do this or that. His comment:
Unfortunately, most leaders tend to use “should” when they ask for input or feedback. If you’ve given the issue some thought, sifted through possibilities, and come up with what you feel are the two best options, you naturally present the solution as an either/or.
This is a problem, because as a Harvard study published in Academy of Management Journal found, using “could” instead of “should” generates a greater number of potential, and better solutions.
I have previously noted the lesson from improv leaders that “yes” and “and” give openings for the next actor while “no” and “but” shut down the dialog. Whatever the word choice, my hunch is that it is very difficult to counter the habits of a lifetime. A better approach might be to pick a setting in which a choice is to be discussed or made. Go into that discussion with a clear intent on what to say. Ask what could happen. Should heads an assertion. Could prompts a question.