Shoulding All Over Your Ideas :: Springboard Training

Shoulding All Over Your Ideas

SylviaH • March 17th, 2011 

Shoulding All Over Your Ideas
© Sylvia Henderson. All rights reserved.


That’s an interesting idea, but…
We tried that before
and it won’t…
You should –

  • be careful about…
  • watch what you…
  • slow down
  • re-think
  • re-consider
  • wait until…
  • get more…


You have an idea or suggestion or something you want to try. You figure out how you want to implement your idea and whose help you need to do so. You determine a plan of action and even read the book Hey, That’s My Idea!, by Sylvia Henderson, to figure out how to communicate and present your idea. You put your idea out on the table—communicate to other people—and they “should” all over you.

“Should all over you” means you hear comments like the ones at the beginning of this article. Most of the feedback includes the word “should” or something similar. You think you have a great idea when others say something to you that plants doubt into you about moving forward. It’s so easy to should our ideas out of us!

How do we get past the negative energy of others—many of whom emote energy in a spirit of helpfulness and good intentions? How do we keep naysayers from nixing our ideas and suggestions? How do we keep creativity creditors out of our idea accounts?

Consider these three approaches to keep well-intentioned naysayers from “shoulding” all over you and draining your idea energy.

Know your goal. Identify exactly what you want to communicate, and why. Be clear within yourself about what is your idea or suggestion, and why you consider it important to implement. When you are sure about your idea within yourself, you communicate assertively. When you communicate assertively you convince others that you truly believe in your own idea.

Situation #1: Miguel has a suggestion for how to reduce the time it takes between receiving an order for website design work and billing the customer in order to begin the work. He believes his suggestion will save the small company for which he works a significant amount of money—enough to enable the owner to purchase a software application that will add new features to the websites they design. Miguel applies techniques for organizing, documenting, and presenting his idea to his colleagues and company owner. When he makes his presentation, he nervously conveys his idea and presents his suggested action plan with a questioning demeanor. Observing his nervousness and hearing his questioning voice, his audience deems his idea as not feasible. When he later asks the company owner why his idea is dismissed, he is told that if he doesn’t believe in his own idea, how can he expect anyone else to believe in it?

Hear them out. Use active listening techniques and give clues that you really are hearing others’ concerns. Ask probing questions in order to clarify what you think they are communicating to you. Determine whether their “shoulds” are well-intentioned cautions, aspects of your idea that you have not fully considered, alternatives that might add to implementing your idea successfully, or barriers that thwart you for whatever reasons they may have to do so. Show that you listen so that others feel that they are heard. Yet do just that—listen—without allowing yourself to be swayed to drop your idea until you investigate the points that you need to further research.

Situation #2: Ellen has an idea for a school project that may evolve into a seasonal business. She talks her idea over with both her older sister who is a manager in a non-related business, as well as with her school counselor. Both people care about Ellen’s success and want her to avoid disappointment in her endeavors. Both offer their advice to Ellen—much of which sounds discouraging to her. Yet she listens to them and shows that she is listening. Then she takes the advice that she hears and sorts the points into “look into these more deeply” and “thanks for your advice” categories. Ellen feels that disappointment is a part of taking risks and life. She looks into the points she feels warrant further investigation and finds that, indeed, she must consider some of the details of her idea more thoroughly before she proceeds to implementing her idea. The rest of the “should” she tosses, yet both her sister and counselor feel that Ellen listened to them and acted accordingly.

Be prudently persistent. Believe strongly in your idea, prepare, and present your implementation plan. Listen, and research feedback you receive so that you avoid avoidable mistakes and benefit from other people’s experiences. Re-establish your goal and forge ahead. When you truly believe in your idea, consider the council of people whose experience and perspectives you respect, and conduct the research that empowers you to make intelligent decisions, you can act on your idea in spite of the shoulds. With a regained focus and commitment, persist in pursuing your idea.

Situation #3: Darned if he is going to let “them” discourage him and stop him from implementing his suggestion! Wayne feels he is doing everything right, and he knows his suggestion is a good one. Everyone else must be short-sighted to not see how great is his idea. His colleagues must be losers to turn away from taking action on his suggestion. That’s okay! Wayne forges ahead and puts his suggestion into action anyway. He’s a persistent kind of guy, and to heck with the feedback he receives about incorporating market forecasts into his suggestion in order to create a backup plan. Wayne feels that caution and “shoulds” are signs of weakness and indications of uncertainty, and these are two characteristics with which he won’t allow association. Persistent—that’s how he wants to be perceived. (Two months later…) Skipped-over for promotion—that’s how he comes to be. His project leader tells him, “Persistence is a good thing. Yet persisting on a path contrary to our recommendation that you further analyze market forces, which would have allowed you to adjust your plan for the impending downturn, was a huge waste of money and time. Reckless persistence is seldom a strong leadership characteristic.”

Keep people from “shoulding” all over your idea and draining your idea energy by knowing your goal and assertively communicating your idea, listening to counsel and investigating points made, as appropriate, and being prudently persistent in acting on your idea. Keep the shoulds away!

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