How to Discern the Hidden Meaning Behind Suggestions

People say, “We should,” when they mean, “You should.” Bosses say ‘we’ when they mean ‘you’.

It’s a tiny act of cowardice to say ‘we’ when you mean ‘you’.

Discern the meaning of pronouns when people make suggestions.

Complainers have suggestions for others. Image of an idea bulb.

The hidden meaning behind suggestions:

“We should,” has four potential meanings.

#1. Give ME a job.

Sometimes ‘we’ means ‘I’. High aspiration people seek opportunities to make a difference. They seek challenges and responsibilities. The second option is more dangerous.

#2. Give OTHERS a job.

Complainers use ‘we’ when they mean ‘they’. Complainers have suggestions for others.

When complainers make suggestions ask yourself, “Who does the work?” Complainers make life easier for themselves and harder for others.

Politicians have suggestions for others. They want to shine at the expense of others.

Beware suggestions that make life harder for others. The third option is most dangerous.

#3. Give YOU a job.

Sometimes ‘we’ means ‘YOU’. Naïve leaders jump on opportunities to help and end up doing other people’s work.

You never succeed when you do other people’s work. The fourth potential definition of ‘we’ is honest.

#4. Give US a job.

Sometimes ‘we’ really means ‘we’.


Define pronouns. A ‘we’ could mean ‘me’, ‘they’, ‘you’, or ‘we’.

How are people using ‘we’ in your organization?

7 Truths about Chronic Complainers Every Leader Needs Today – Leadership Freak

12 Sentences that Prevent Reverse Delegation – Leadership Freak

John David Mann and I collaborated on a book that helps leaders get real with themselves – The Vagrant: The Inner Journey of Leadership.

If you’re reading The Vagrant as a team or a group, send an email to and let me know. I’d love to setup a short video call with you to meet you, answer questions, and help you get the most out of your experience.

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