Shake Your Should Statements

Diversity Team Brainstorming about their leadership uniqueness

“Should” statements inhibit team performance

Business Team Meeting

As a change leader, you need to understand how your language impacts your message. 

There is power in language. Every interaction with your team is a chance to connect on a higher level and cheer each other on, so it is important to be aware of the words you use and the message they convey. 


It is time to shake your Should-a, would-a, could-a and start connecting on a new level. These words are the birthplace of blame and shame. The inherently judgmental nature of these words stifles creativity and inhibits strong collaboration, both of which are critical for high-performance teams or team transformation

When you start “should”-ing all over someone, you are essentially saying ‘I am smarter than you’, ‘I know better than you’, or ‘You are not capable of solving this problem.’ Oops, now you’ve unintentionally made yourself the jerk, and you’ve harmed the connection between yourself and your fellow team member. 

Every interaction is a chance to embrace a team culture that promotes high-performance. When you use language that cuts out the blame and offers encouragement, you reinforce a growth mindset that keeps your team moving forward and inspires confidence and a predisposition for action. 

Judgemental wording makes people defensive. 

This is true regardless of the speaker’s intention. Even heartfelt and well-meaning advice can feel like a condescending jab with the wrong word choices. 

Imagine you are speaking with a colleague or friend about a conflict you just experienced. You pause for a moment to gather your thoughts andBam!they hit you with something like “well, you could have…” or “you should have…” 

What happens next? You feel yourself becoming defensive and trying to justify your actions. You feel misunderstood and disconnected from someone who should be on your team. Assumptions are flying high and as they say, when you ASSUME, you make an A-S-S out of U and M-E.

Instead of judgement, choose curiosity.

Be Curious and ask questions. The truth is, all your advice cannot be as good as the solution that lies within the person who is directly affected by the problem. They hold all the information and that means they have the key to resolve the situation. They are the keepers of the information, players, and non-verbal interactions.

Rather than unintentionally passing judgment, shift your wording to something that inspires the listener to consider a new point of view. Instead of “you should have done this,” try “why do you think that happened the way it did?” 

Resisting the urge to jump in with a solution to someone else’s problem tells them that you know they are capable and helps build their confidence rather than harming it. Stepping back to let others solve their own problems also builds confidence in the team’s collective ability to problem solve. 

Replace Judgemental Statements with Curious Communication

Here are four ways that you can be more intentional in your communication to avoid the misunderstandings that damage relationships among peers. 

  • Be Present

Live in the moment, let go of thoughts of the future (anxiety) and let go of thoughts of the past (worry). When we do this, we clear our minds of the thoughts that block us from seeing, hearing and feeling the connection of the person that is with us at that moment. Being present says, “You are the most important person to me right here and right now.” That means not checking out; we have all been the giver and receiver of checking out and it feels yucky on both sides.

  • Be Aware

Notice when and where this is coming into the situation. What are you trying to prove? What relationship do you want with this person? What is the impact of “your need to be right” in this relationship?

  • Shift Your Mindset

Your Mindset creates trustworthiness.  Your belief in a person is the foundation of trust and respect. Embrace this as your new mantra – “I trust and respect this person. They are creative and capable of solving this problem.”

  • Ask powerful questions. 

You are a great listener and your value is not based on you solving the problem. Powerful questions are questions that you truly don’t know the answer to. They are questions that challenge thinking. When you ask questions without needing to solve the problems these questions will come naturally, and you become a catalyst for awesomeness.


Taking these simple steps to shake those pesky “should” statements will improve connections among your team members. They need to know you believe in them and trust them to make great decisions. They are worthy of your trust and respect.

Up Next Team Challenge Wk 3: Use “And” Instead Of “But”

About The Author

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Heather Evans is a guide and coach for professionals looking to maximize their individual, team, and business potential.

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