Decision Making That Will Stick: Mediation Examples You Can Learn From

a man having difficulty with decision making - learn from mediation examples

I hear “I should…” all the time.

General Life Examples of I Should Decision Making:

  • I should go to the gym…(but watches more TV instead)
  • I should go on a diet…(but digs in to her ice cream instead)
  • I should save more money…(but shops online instead)
  • I should call her and mend fences…(but holds the grudge instead)

I should, I should, I should…

Mediation Examples of I Should Decision Making:

  • Divorce Mediation: “I should stop bringing it up…” (but she does anyway)
  • Parent Teen Mediation: “I should stop suffocating her and give her more space…” (but she texts every hour anyway)
  • Marital Mediation: “I should apologize…” (but he remains defensive anyway)

I should, I should, I should…

Red Flag Decision Making

How often do you say I should in a week when you are trying to make your own decisions?

Too many times would be my guess.

To my ears any sentence beginning with I should is a red flag. It most likely means that you are feeling pressured or compelled to do (or not do) something based on the expectations of someone else. It is natural of course for our decisions to be influenced by others.

But think about it – isn’t there a difference between being influenced to make your own decisions and the influencer making decisions for you?

The thing with I shoulds is that they often do not lead to action. More often than not they are code for “Well, I kinda want to but not really.” And what normally happens with a “well, I kinda want to but not really?”


Decision Making 2.0: Mediation Examples Illustrate a Better Approach

There are a lot of strategies to help folks make better decisions like this one I read that provide four useful strategies. But what if you were to make just one change?

Stop saying I should and instead say I will.

What do you think would happen if you replaced I should with I will?

Would you be more likely to follow through on your decision making? More likely to make your own decisions (versus someone else making decisions for you)? My guess is yes and yes. After all, the way we think and talk can have a great influence on the way we behave.

Let’s take a look at the three mediation examples from earlier – when I replace I should with I will, do they sound or feel different to you?

  • Divorce Mediation: “I will stop bringing it up…”
  • Parent Teen Mediation: “I will stop suffocating her and give her more space…”
  • Marital Mediation: “I will apologize…”

In what ways do you think replacing I should with I will can change the way you make your own decisions? Or someone you know?

Please comment below – I would love to hear from you!



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About the Author ()

I help families resolve conflict through family mediation and divorce mediation in Massachusetts. My services include mediation for co-parenting disputes, marriage problems, separation and divorce, parents and teenagers, and family conflicts. The goal of my mediator's blog is to help teach or remind readers of helpful communication and conflict resolution techniques that can be used in their relationships. I live in Natick, MA with my wife, son and dog and mediate throughout the Metrowest Boston region. Please note that my name is spelled Ben Stich, not Ben Stitch.

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Comments (10)

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  1. Ben, I really liked this post because I think it’s something we all need to re-visit in our lives from time to time. “I should …” carries such a weight of guilt because we’re not doing the very thing we’re claiming we should do. “I will …” on the other hand, feels much more positive and filled with energy. The dynamic has swung from passive to active.

    So, I’ve just bought a new bike and I WILL exercise daily and enjoy it! 🙂

    Thanks again, Ben.

  2. Harriet Stich says:

    The difference between I SHOULD and I WILL are huge. I SHOULD is non-committal and I WILL carries obligation to follow through. I SHOULD says, I get it but I’m not going to do it.

  3. Anne Lafleur says:

    What a great pattern to point out.

    I’m thinking one could also replace “I should” with “I WANT”. (Maybe a little easier for the commitment-averse among us?) Although maybe the temptation would be too great to add “you” as the third word (i.e. “I want YOU to change”). Still, it’d be good for identifying the interests underneath the shoulds: “I want a healthy body”, “I want to feel proud of my choices”, or in mediation “I want to find a way that we can…”

    Regardless, it’s a great point: Don’t “should” on yourself! It doesn’t lead to anything good.

    • Ben Stich says:

      Your point about identifying the true interests (using good mediator language there, Anne!) is an important one. Lots of times the “I shoulds” don’t work because they are meeting someone else’s interests, not yours! Thanks so much for commmenting, Anne, and I look forward to future insights from you!

  4. Andrew Stich says:

    I continue to learn new ways of approaching various situations from reading and rereading your blog posts. Please keep them coming!

  5. Ben Stich says:

    I am SO glad that you are finding the posts helpful!

  6. I love this post Ben. When I worked with new parents I would often hear the “I should” phrase .. one day I heard a wise woman say replace “I should” with “I could” .. so this is what I shared with parents, for example:
    replace “Baby is asleep I should get the washing on the line/do the ironing/vacuum/prepare dinner” with
    “Baby is asleep I could get the washing on the line/do the ironing/vacuum/prepare dinner or I could sit down and have a cup of tea/10 minute nap/read this magazine”
    In this scenario “I could” introduces the concept of self care

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