There are many “bad words” in our language, but none seem to do the damage of one 6-letter word, “should”. “I should have done this or that.” “I should not have done what I did.” “She or he really should know this or that.” How often do you hear or use that one word without realizing the power it has over you and your relationships?
Should is a not a word indicating a change or correction in behavior. Instead, it is a moral judgment. It is a way of saying, “I’m a failure,” or “I’m not good enough.” (I should have/should not have done….) It’s also a dangerous way of separating ourselves from the other.
When we say “I should have” we are setting ourselves up for self-prescribed failure. “I should have gone to the gym.” “I should have not eaten that extra cookie.” We know what we need to do. “I should drive the speed limit, or I will get a speeding ticket.” We know what we have to do. But, there is nothing we should be doing. “Need to” is for our benefit. “Have to” is following well-defined rules and regulations. “Should” is a moral judgment on ourselves.
To say “s/he should”, is to imply that the other knows our rules and chooses not to follow them. Rarely, however, are those rules spoken aloud. Instead, they are our own internalized sense of right or wrong. Somehow, we believe that others should know these rules, even when we’ve not spoken them. And, when they don’t follow the rules (our rules) we cast a moral judgment, “s/he should have known better.” Should is also a way of hiding our own fears and vulnerabilities in relationship to others. “S/he should know….”, is a way of working around our own insecurities. Instead of asking for help, acknowledging where we are vulnerable and need support, or engaging the other in challenging conversations, we often just say, “they should.”
Here’s your challenge. Try to go one day without using the word should. It is amazing how often we say that 6-letter word without even realizing it. So, when you do….and you most likely will….stop and ask yourself this question. Who am I judging in this moment? Am I condemning myself or the other? And, what about this moment makes it easier to say “should” than what I really mean? So, you really should stop saying should!