Should vs Wonder

(Person wondering in a field, by Diffusionbee)

I’m not sure the word ‘should’ is appropriate to use in a business setting.

Yes, I’m fully aware it would take a monumental effort to remove ‘should’ from our vocabulary. But that’s exactly what I’m suggesting.

Don’t take this to the extreme, I’m not against a simple ‘we should go or we’ll be late’. But in a meeting, brainstorming, or even casual watercooler conversation, I’m advocating for the removal of ‘should’.

Why, you may ask? Well, when someone says “we/I/you should do <something>”, it’s basically a command. And who wants to be commanded to do anything?

At most, if someone has a different opinion they will reply “I think we should do <something else>”. Where does that leave you… at an impass. At worst, they disagree but stay quiet, which certainly never uncovers the true best outcome.

‘Should’ leads to micro-management. ‘Should’ leads to people leaving. ‘Should’ leads to total destruction (OK, maybe a little too far).

Now, you may ask, what to replace this menacing ‘should’ word with? I wonder…

That’s right, ‘I wonder’ is a simple substitute for ‘should’ that opens a conversation rather than closes it.

‘I wonder’ poses a question that’s open to debate/feedback/comment. It’s the verbal equivalent to opening your palms rather than crossing your arms.

Nobody takes ‘I wonder’ as a command. Nobody views a boss saying “I wonder if this would be a good option” and thinks they’re a terrible dictator.

I had a board member who trained himself to ‘wonder’ all the time. Guess what, we had great open discussions about basically everything. I quickly started replying with a ‘wonder’ to his ‘wonder’… it was great.

So get a rubber band, put it on your wrist, and give yourself a good snap every time you say ‘should’ for the next few days. Then remind yourself to wonder. Extra credit for counting how many people wonder back to you.

Wonder more, should less… I’m guessing your conversations will be better for it.