Thinking About Communication: We Should

How many times do you turn to your friends, family, and partner and say something along the lines of, “We should have a party”?

Tim and I have been saying it a lot to each other, as we try to navigate having a small child. “We should do the dishes.” “We should change her diaper.” “We should get food.”

It’s a really interesting statement, if you think about it. First, it identifies a need between two people or a group, or a desire. Second, it completely abdicates responsibility for that need or desire by the person making the statement. “We should” do something often means “you should” do it. (Sometimes, it really does mean “we” — but that requires someone taking a leadership role and taking point on collaborating.) And because no one is taking responsibility, whatever need or desire that is aired doesn’t happen.

Listen to yourself as you talk about household responsibilities with your partners. How often do you say “we should” do something, instead of asking your partner directly? How often does the thing you say “we should” about not happen at all?

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5 thoughts on “Thinking About Communication: We Should

  1. Good point. We should is often code for “I kinda want to, but you need to take the reins…” OR, like it often is i Scroogyland, it’s code for, “I really want to, but I need to gauge if you’re also on board.”

  2. I just had this conversation with my boss this past week. She overheard me saying, “I will do this…” to a coworker, and she jumped in, telling me we all need to say WE instead, and I in particular need to get better at delegating. I told her essentially what you say here. It was most noticeable in my life, growing up with a dozen siblings. “We should do the dishes” always meant “someone other than me should do the dishes.”

    She had just had a hard meeting the day before, where a lot of “You should/should have/shouldn’t” type language was tossed around in a heated way. However, I think generally, it’s better for individuals to take responsibility for what needs done. At least, I prefer working that way, and that way you also know who to hold accountable for a specific task.

    Also, we should ALWAYS be partying.

  3. I actually just made this point to my boss recently. She overheard me telling another coworker, “I’ll do this,” and she jumped in. She wants us to start using “us” and “we” instead of singular pronouns. Her reasoning is that we all need to work together, and I in particular need to delegate more. I told her that pronoun use is not as powerful a tool as she seems to think it is. I agree with your second point. Growing up, “we” needed to do the dishes, and that always meant “someone other than me, because there are lots of us.” I would rather take personal responsibility, and I would like other individuals to do the same, so that there’s accountability for tasks. Especially in a professional setting.

  4. Should, would, could are always great words to try and let someone take responsibility. I am always amazed at how easily we use these words without ever thinking the context through. I think we often say them without thought or ration. I shall, I will and I can are so much more pleasing to the ear because at least they show intend that will do something. We are the true educators of our children and if we are always so easily willing to give up our responsibility what message are we truly teaching them? Just my two cents of course…. 🙂

  5. I’m sorry, I didn’t realize my first comment had posted when I wrote up the second.

    Talk about communication blunders!

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