I am just one celebratory month shy of ten years since I last left the house to work as an accountant. It was only one or two days a week and it was absolutely lovely in all ways but one, that one being the reason I had to give it up in the end.
The Boss kept sending everyone who worked for him, in whatever capacity, emails with the word SHOULD in them. We should think this, we should feel that, we should do the other.
And last week One Famous Man wrote an important open letter to Another Famous Man and, for me, the message was somewhat spoiled by all the SHOULDS peppered throughout although God knows that message needed communicating in all but this one regard, a small point I know. Sorry. Ship. Ha’p’orth of tar. The power of the written (and spoken) word is massive and with just this one change, his message could have been even more powerful and important.
Both men are leaders of their businesses and I believe they both know the ways to get the best out of their teams, but SHOULDING me/us isn’t it. I make up my own mind how I think and feel and how I behave. The Boss could have asked me (nicely) and for sure I would have considered his request and factored it in with all the other aspects of our relationship – the intellectual stimulation of working with him, his fun team, enjoyable never-boring work, great money, autonomy. Instead, sadly, shoulding me led to my inevitable departure. I couldn’t get past it, it stuck in my craw all the time, it wouldn’t go away and I couldn’t dissolve it, or forgive and forget. It offends my values, that’s it I see now.
I recognise that this is a grammar-y nerdy point, and perhaps some (many?) do not understand the same thing as I do by the word SHOULD, after all I’ve been rebelling since I was 10, it is well documented. And certainly in coaching circles there’s another thing about shoulds altogether, we generally help clients steer themselves away from shoulds. They are not things they want to do, they are things they feel they ought to do and generally that never ends well either. But that’s another story for another day.
When leaders are communicating with their teams or, indeed, the world then here are some other ways you can get your powerful messages across without using the word SHOULD.
In your absence we did this thing. Although we know you probably won’t be happy about this, you SHOULD feel grateful because…
Seriously? You can SHOVE this where the sun don’t shine. My resignation follows.
The United States is a nation of immigrants, and we should be proud of that.
The United States is a nation of immigrants, and we are proud of that.
We need to keep this country safe, but we should do that by focusing on people who actually pose a threat.
We need to keep this country safe, and we do that by…
We should also keep our doors open to refugees and those who need help. That’s who we are.
Our doors are open to refugees and those who need help and will always remain so. That’s who we are.
When you catch yourself about to use the word SHOULD, in any situation, consider what you are doing – attempting to impose your will upon others without consultation, telling them how to think and feel and behave. Is there a place for that? Ever? Anywhere?
What do we call someone who does that? A dictator and not a particularly benevolent one either.
Whatever, it isn’t nice. Don’t do it, or you will be hearing from me about where you can SHOVE those SHOULDS.
There is always a better way to say anything without using the word should and, likely as not, if you avoid it, you’ll also be much more likely to get the outcome you desire too.