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“Woulda Coulda Shoulda”

The words “woulda coulda shoulda” often seem to be used in the aftermath of being in conflict when we are kicking ourselves for something we said or did or didn’t say or do. The following description provides a pertinent explanation: “For many people, there is a clear distinction between what actually happened and what they wished would have happened in a given situation. Sometimes, people realize a number of options they could have or should have taken instead of the action they actually took. This feeling of regret or second-guessing is summed up in the expression woulda coulda shoulda.”

It is easier in hindsight to consider what may have been a more productive or constructive way to manage a conflict. The time and energy wasted with self-blame replete with woulda coulda shoulda language can be all consuming. Commonly, our recriminations also add to continued tension between the other person and us. Even criticizing ourselves for things we did not say or do when we had the opportunity creates discomfort for those who listen to our plaints.

Why do some of us engage in woulda coulda shoulda recriminations? Previous ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions) blog topics suggested a number of reasons such as unresolved issues, lack of reconciliation, and continuing emotional investment in the matter. Low self-esteem and guilt also contribute to this state of reacting. These and other reasons and combinations of them vary from situation to situation and do not exist in all the conflicts in which we participate.

When self-blame prevails though, it is an opportune time for us to assess the wouldas couldas shouldas of the situation – to check out the reality of what we wished we had said or done. This week’s questions aim to help readers conduct such an exercise with yourself.

  • Considering a conflict situation about which you continue to blame yourself for some aspects, what do you think you shoulda said instead or differently from what you did?
  • What is the action you coulda taken?
  • What information, if you had it, may have helped you with the woulda part of the situation?
  • In what other ways are you blaming yourself about this particular interaction?
  • What do you think the other person shoulda said or done instead or differently?
  • What is the action you think she or he coulda taken instead?
  • What information may she or he have benefited from that woulda changed the course of her or his reaction?
  • In what ways does the woulda coulda shoulda self-blame keep you engaged in the dispute?
  • How much do you want to stop blaming yourself on a scale of 1-5, 5 being very much and 1 being not at all?
  • If you answer less than 5 in the above question, what does self-blame accomplish that you do not want to let go of – at least yet?

What other ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions) may you add here?

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