“Should” is probably my least favorite word in the English language. If I thought about it really hard I might be able to think of one I like even less, but maybe not. “Should” is a judgement word, a limiting word, a bullying word and a manipulative word. It can be one, some or all of the above depending on the intent of the user. When someone says to you, “You should have done this or that” or “You should not have done this or that” they are in effect telling you that their judgement of a situation is better than yours. Now, it may very well be that their judgement of a situation IS better than yours. But then, that’s where it gets sticky. Because we learn from the mistakes we make. Each of us are here on our own journey, and while in hindsight it may SEEM like their judgement was better or without foresight they may THINK their judgement is better, but if something was done one way rather than another, who really knows how the outcome might or might not have been different? (I’m not speaking of clearly criminal behavior here) People use “should” and “should not” to bully others as well. This is a really insidious form of bullying, but we’ve all been subject to it at one time or another. And probably the person using it on you (or you on them) wouldn’t even think of it as bullying. But anytime you try to manipulate how another person behaves (I’m speaking of adults here, children are a different matter, but I believe “should” be kept to a bare minimum even with them) it is a form of bullying. But other people “shoulding” on you or you “shoulding” on other people isn’t even the worst of it. That comes when you “should” on yourself. It is so self-defeating. I “should” have done this, everything would have been better. I “should not” have done that everything would have been better. Really? How do you know? You can “should” yourself into such a state of self-flagellation that you don’t learn anything from the lesson your life is trying to teach you. I am just as guilty as the next person of “shoulding”, especially on myself, but I am getting better at catching it and instead of “shoulding” I say to myself, “well that could have been handled differently, what would be some ideas to do so in the future?” or “Wow, that didn’t happen like I thought it would, was it a failure on my part, or just one of those things?” etc. And I try very hard to do the same for others. And it is amazing how much less misery you cause yourself and others when you give up the word “should”. Are you a “shoulder”, on yourself or others? Do you agree or disagree that it is a terrible way to communicate when there’s a problem? Let me know in the comments!