We often use the word should. To express obligation or duty, to elaborate on a choice that could have been taken, to shame ourselves or others, or perhaps to express what we wish had happened.
Think about it, since you woke up in the morning have you ‘shoulded’ yourself? Have you self-talked ‘should’? ‘I should have got up earlier, I should have prepared everything ready to go in the morning, I should have stopped myself from having that last glass of wine, I should go for a run, I should send that message, I should have saved, not sent, that message!’
I can think of endless ways in which I have used ‘should‘ to berate myself, to unwittingly, or wittingly, shame others, to simply take a subtractive stance or to casually seek out the negative. It wasn’t until conversations with a wise soul recently that it dawned on me, this wee word, just 6 letters was a rampant part of my vocabulary and it wasn’t adding value it was devaluing in many respects. I also looked at my conversations and language choice with students. I decided I had to free us from too much should.
Now, before someone out there steps up in defence of should, I would like to state that I realize this is a valuable word in the English language and has its place to be used. I just believe it may be being used too much, too carelessly, at least by me!
So I began my mission to pause and to replace.
When I found myself about to use the word should, in my conversations, in my self talk, in my writing. I questioned is should really what I want to say?
You know what, I found that on more occasions than I can remember, should could be replaced with ‘will’ or ‘could’ or ‘can’ or ‘must’. Suddenly that 6 letter word change invited in choice, intention, direction and empowerment. Without the shaming.
In my dialogue with students I tried playing with replacing should with could or must, with will or can and invited in opportunity for choice and voice, for accountability with directions, for assertiveness and clarity – looking forward, as opposed to shaming a choice made, or opportunity missed. It led me to thinking that when we encourage reflection we must be sure to frame this with a growth mindset. Word choice matters.
So go on, I encourage you to give it a try. You can, you could, you will, you must….I just won’t ‘should’ you.