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We Shouldn’t Say “Should”


I had another revelation while outside the other day around my pool.  I was having a conversation with my family and I said something that started with, “You should…”.  Personally, I try to avoid saying “should” to anyone as it implies I know better than them and they should listen to me.  And in some situations, that may be true.  But in many situations where people say things like, “You should,” they’re setting themselves up for failure.

What’s The Problem With Using The Word “Should”

Here are a couple problems I’ve experienced with using the word “should”:

  • It implies you know something someone doesn’t and that they should listen to you if they want a good outcome.  This can be true sometimes, but sometimes it doesn’t end in a good outcome.  You’re left looking foolish.
  • It’s not a motivator.  For example, “I should exercise three times a week.”  It implies it’s a good idea but not required and definitely not something that’s gonna motivate someone.

The challenge is that when we use the word “should,” it seems opinionated, arrogant, and not necessarily motivating.  It can set you up for a big fall if someone follows your advice and does something that doesn’t work out.  Or using the word “should” as a motivator is a weak way to get yourself or others to make a positive change.

An Example Of Why Not To Use “Should”

A friend comes over and is complaining about their car.  How it’s always breaking down and is unreliable.  Quite frankly, they complain about the car so much that you’re even tired of hearing about it.  So, you end up saying, “You should sell that car and buy a new one.”  You’re tired of hearing about it and just want your friend to buy a new one and get it over with.  Though your friend is concerned a bit about money, they take your advice and buy the new car.

Three weeks later, a pandemic hits.  I don’t know, let’s call it The Coronavirus.  Like many Americans, you’re friend gets laid off from work, crippling their financial situation.  Now they’re strapped with a new car payment in a tough time.  I wonder if they’ll remember you saying, “You should sell that car and buy a new one.”  Perhaps you thought you were speaking in their best interest, but it can make you look like the goat.

Instead of using the word “should,” what should you use?  LOL..I used “should” again.  Instead of using the word “should,” have you considered these alternatives…

The Alternatives To “Should”

One of the best ways to help someone see a better way of doing something is to help them decide for themselves.  For example, instead of saying, “You should sell that car and buy a new one”, I wonder what would have happened if you said, “Have you considered buying a new car?”  Instead of giving an authoritative opinion on what someone else “should” do, you ask a question that helps them discover and decide for themselves.  You can help walk them through the pros and cons of such a decision.  It opens the door of discovery, rather than closing it with a strong opinion of how you know best.

Or how about saying to yourself, “I should exercise three times a week.”  Does that really force you to make a commitment to yourself and motivate you to work out three times a week?  Eh, NOPE!!!  Instead, say to yourself, “I MUST exercise three times a week.”  Simply changing your “should” to a “must” doesn’t make the action optional, but required.  This can be a strong motivator towards positive change.

The Takeaway

Personally, I’m done using the word “should.”  I can’t seem to find any benefits to using it at all.  Why was the word even created if it wasn’t just to express one’s opinion?  Sure that opinion may be based on experience, but it can put you in the hot seat if you give an opinion that doesn’t quite work out for someone else.  Nor does it motivate anyone by saying they “should” do something.  Instead, I’m throwing “should” away and going to do my best to avoid it.  You should do the same thing.  Oh wait, scratch that.  Have you considered dropping “should” from your vocabulary?

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