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Drop the “Should” Word

Throughout my life I’ve heard advice from people on how I should be doing this or that. While most of the people mean well, telling me what I should do still feels like judgment or condemnation.

There is a fine line between offering supportive counsel and putting our expectations onto others.  We may have experience in a certain area that we want to share, but there are other ways to convey that advice without using, ”You should…”

While “should” is a popular and overused word in our vocabulary, it is not appropriate when sharing thoughts on how to live our best life, because it feels judgmental.  It is not possible for another person to know what is best for us. Telling someone he or she “should” do something is placing our expectations on the other person.  The loving thing is to share advice that is supportive rather than judgmental or condemning. For example changing, “You really should dump that looser guy you are dating” to “If the values and behavior of the man you are dating are not in line with yours, it may be good to step back and seriously reevaluate the relationship.”

I believe we will stop unintentionally placing judgment, expectations and condemnation onto others when we care how our advice feels to the person we are counseling.  You and I can lead the way to be the change we want to see by refusing to use the word “should.”  And, we can gently and respectfully point out to those closest to us how it feels to hear that word.