I Propose a Ban on the word “Should”

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Stop saying “should” when you really mean “must.”

My Mother was a very smart lady.  I didn’t realize it growing up. To be honest, we never realize how smart our parents are when we are young. By the time I really started to appreciate her wisdom and wit, she was gone (she died at 59 – too young).  Thirty-two years later, I still hear her voice almost every day.  Not exactly how she actually sounded – that disappeared a very long time ago. I hear her words and her clarity – especially when she needed to make a point very clear to me.

One thing that she used to say, and that I now repeat often: the word should needs to be removed from the English dictionary.

When my sons were young, I tried to never use that word with them. I wouldn’t let them use it in their everyday lexicon. I always worked with them to find a good substitute for whatever they were trying to say.

My mother hated that word because of what unspoken pressure came with it.  If you think about it, when you say, “You should (do, be, say, etc.)” the listener hears something like, “If you don’t (do, be, say, etc.) then you are a bad person, or an unfeeling person, or an ignorant person or any number of other negative attributes that could be applied to the situation. “Should” often becomes a ‘pressure word’ that’s just filled with judgement. The reality is that when you place that kind of judgement on someone, you rarely get the result you were looking for. If you get what you want, then often it’s because the other person is feeling guilty or doesn’t want that negative attached to them. Either way, the other person is not acting because they feel that something different needs to happen.  What you really want from them is an honest change in their behavior – not a change from outside pressure which won’t last.

So let’s all agree – we really should remove the word should from everything we say – we will all be better for it.  My mother said so and she was a smart lady.

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