A weakness of mine is telling others what they “should” do as opposed to what they “can” do. The word “should” comes from a place of “I’m right.”

When someone believes he or she is right, the first instinct is usually to prove him or her wrong. While the use of “should” can create great devil’s advocates, it can also create opposition or lack of support when trying to get ideas across the finish line.

On the other hand, the word “can” comes from a place of possibility. Using the word “can” allows the other person to take ownership over an idea and run with it – or you can bring it to life together.

Even when I tell myself what I “should have” done, it is rooted in blame, whereas “could have” has a softer landing and built in optimism toward the future.

Another even better solution than using “should” or “can” is to ask a question instead of making a statement. For example –

You should take the highway

You can take the highway

Have you thought of taking the highway?

Asking the latter allows you to understand another person’s perspective on an idea without springing it on them, and once again, allows them to take ownership of it.

In my experience, these communication skills are even more critical when working with creatives.

The easier leaders can get their ideas across, the more effective they will be. An easy way to create together with others is by using questions and focusing on what “can” be done instead of what “should” be done.

Sometimes one word can make all the difference.

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