Coulda, woulda, shoulda

Are you guilty of using the words coulda, woulda, shoulda? Here's how to avoid that.
Regretful man

Although they may not officially be real words, they get used every day in human interactions, both professionally and personally, and they tend to be some of the most costly words that get used in everyday life. 

Way too frequently we end a meeting, leave an appointment, or hang up from a phone call and say these words. Often, they are not out loud or shared with others. Instead, we say those words to ourselves, something like, “Oh I shoulda said this,” “Man, I coulda shared this,” or, “I wish a woulda asked this.”

Likely, you or people on your team do this every single day. Those in leadership, management, sales, or customer service roles tend to be guilty of being in the common places we use and hear these words; however, it is possible in any role. We also use them in our personal lives way too often as well, which can sometimes be worse. 

Why does this happen? There are obviously many reasons, but the single most common is that we enter into interactions with others unprepared. We have a meeting, appointment, phone call, or etc. with little to no thought or energy put into what will or is likely to happen. If we don’t prepare, it is very possible that something will come up unexpectedly, forcing us to think or act without prep work. When this happens, we are likely to miss something, or more commonly, regret not doing, saying, or asking something. 

When we are unprepared and then regret something we didn’t do, say, or ask, we end up saying to ourselves, “Coulda, woulda, shoulda,” making them the most costly words in our vocabulary. 

How do we get better at this? We should spend more time preparing. We should be investing time and energy into what is likely to happen, what is likely to be asked, and what is likely to be shared. If we are prepared and ready, we are far, far less likely to say, “Coulda, woulda, shoulda” after the interaction. 

Another additional key component is to take time to proactively debrief your interactions and find a way to learn from them. If after each call we ask ourselves, “What do I wish I would have said, asked, or done?” and make note of it, we can find ways to better ensure we are prepared for the next time. 

So, how often do your people use coulda, woulda, shoulda after a phone call, meeting, or appointment? Think about how much it is costing you. Is it worth fixing? If your answer is yes, start small by taking a few minutes to think about things before the call, meeting, or appointment. Then, take a few minutes after to debrief the interaction. If you don’t know or like the answers, find a business growth consultant who can help.

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About Mike Crandall

Mike Crandall lives in Edmond, Oklahoma. He is a Consultant, Coach, Trainer, Speaker, and Author focused on the Subconscious Psychology of Human Interaction and Motivation. His firm specializes in Sales, Management, and Leadership Development for Proactive Business Growth. Mike is based in Oklahoma and serves Visionary Clients across the United States. He can be reached at Mike.Crandall@Sandler.com or at (405) 844-1700.