In improv, details matter.
And this extends to your speech.
As a leader, the language you use affects how your team thinks. You need to be aware of this.
Try this conversation exercise with a friend:
- A tells B about a minor problem they’re having, like where to take a client to lunch.
- B provides advice, but always starts their sentences with “You should…”
- After a few exchanges, change responses to start with “You could…”
How do those two approaches make the conversation feel?
Most people say should feels very direct and closed, almost like an order. Could feels more open, like you’re suggesting options.
Open language inspires people to choose and build their own solutions.
But let’s not get too down on should. If the building was on fire, you’d want a firefighter to say “You should follow me!” not “Well, you could try the stairs…”
Sometimes you need to delegate or make decisions for the team. For those situations, closed language is more effective. If you want engagement and creativity, use open language.
Before a meeting, take a moment to get clear on your goal. Then use the right language to meet it.
Other open/closed words & phrases? Discuss here.