‘Should’ is a Sh–ty Word

Ever have someone tell you what you should do about your problems? I have. I even do it to myself. It feels like sh–.

When someone tells me what I should do, they are doing two things to me. First they are dis-empowering me. They are acting like they have the right and the authority in my life to make a decision for me. They don’t. I’m an adult, and I make decisions for myself. They are invading my ‘independence’ space. I might feel belittled and hurt. If they tell me what I should do in front of other people, they may embarrass me and put me in a position where I need to save face.

Secondly, they are assuming I either don’t yet know what to do, or, worse, am unable to figure it out on my own. Either way, it is an assumption (ass-u-me!). Sometimes I may just need someone to listen. All too often I hear people say that if you relate a problem to them, it is license to give you advice. It’s not- ‘I’d like your advice’ is license to give someone your advice. I might also just be looking for ideas, which is very different from looking for direction on an issue.

I would be willing to bet money that if I feel this way when people tell me what I should do, others feel the same when it is done to them. I have two guidelines to help me avoid doing this to other people, and to help others avoid doing it to me:

Before I begin to say something important, I will tell the listener what I am looking for- someone to just listen, give feedback (what do they hear), or give advice.

I will listen and ask questions when I interact with people. I will only give feedback or advice if asked to, or, if it is important that I give feedback or advice, I will ask permission first.

I’m a memorizer. I codify things and commit them to memory. Having ‘guidelines’ might not work for everyone, so I propose this great idea, which I have heard people using in the recovery community- let’s treat the word ‘should’ like the word ‘sh–‘ (the other word for poop, rhymes with ‘sit’).

Imagine if the word ‘should’ were treated like that curse word… When someone dropped this new ‘s’ bomb, my face would register my distaste as I asked them not to ‘should’ on me, or use such improper words in polite conversation. My reaction would probably have people stop using it pretty quick, even if they thought me crazy at first. I would certainly avoid using it in my speech and dropping it on other people. I wouldn’t ‘should’ all over myself anymore either.

‘Should’ is a sh–ty word.


Do you ever catch yourself should*-ing on people?

Do you ever have to stop people who accidentally should* on you?

(*please pardon my bad language, using that distasteful word plainly, without censoring it)

4 thoughts on “‘Should’ is a Sh–ty Word

  1. I grew up with constant shoulds and thought it was normal conversation. I am aware when I fall into “should land” when talking with someone and correct it. I did not have an awareness of doing this for the longest time because of my early years growing up with it. Thanks for the post. Very well put and appreciated. 🙂

    • Thank you very much.

      I’ve noticed a lot of people have no awareness of what it means to ‘should’ on people. It’s no fault of their own. Like you, I grew up with people should-ing on each other all the time. I think it is just a commonly accepted/unchallenged way of communicating and positioning ourselves relative to others.

  2. I used to have a friend who would always say, “Shoulda, coulda, woulda” when I would use one of those words. Now should is like a swear word to me. Whenever I use it I hear “shoulda, coulda, woulda.” {{{hugs]}} Kozo

    • Thanks for the hugs, Kozo 🙂 This was actually a recycled post from a side blog I had started and abandoned.

      ‘Could’ and ‘would’ are maybe some words I should look at myself.

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