Thinking in terms of “shoulds” can derail communication and connection right out of the gate. When you “should,” you establish yourself as an authority looking for agreement or compliance from the other person.
‘Shoulding’ can also lead to assuming you know what someone else is thinking or feeling. For example, if you think that someone “should” know something, you may not bother to explain it to them. This can lead to misunderstandings, as the other person may not have the same understanding of the situation as you do.
For example, I remember hearing repeatedly throughout my life, “I shouldn’t have to tell you, you should know this by now.” I ended up finding out from someone else or doing something wrong until the “shoulding” party gave me something else to do, or became frustrated enough to show or tell me how to do it.
Things can go so much more smoothly when you give others the guidance they need in the first place.
“𝙎𝙝𝙤𝙪𝙡𝙙𝙨” 𝙖𝙧𝙚 𝙖 𝙛𝙤𝙧𝙢 𝙤𝙛 𝙟𝙪𝙙𝙜𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙩 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙘𝙖𝙣 𝙡𝙚𝙖𝙙 𝙩𝙤 𝙙𝙚𝙛𝙚𝙣𝙨𝙞𝙫𝙚𝙣𝙚𝙨𝙨 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙢𝙞𝙨𝙪𝙣𝙙𝙚𝙧𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙣𝙙𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙞𝙣 𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙢𝙪𝙣𝙞𝙘𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣.” – 𝙃𝙖𝙧𝙧𝙞𝙚𝙩 𝙇𝙚𝙧𝙣𝙚𝙧
“Shoulds” are also dripping with judgment in a lot of cases. If you think that someone “should” behave a certain way, you may also assume they know what they “should” be doing and are choosing not to. This can start any conversation off on the wrong foot because you’ve assumed, judged, and mind-read before even opening your mouth.
“‘𝙎𝙝𝙤𝙪𝙡𝙙𝙨’ 𝙘𝙖𝙣 𝙖𝙡𝙨𝙤 𝙗𝙚 𝙪𝙨𝙚𝙙 𝙩𝙤 𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙩𝙧𝙤𝙡 𝙤𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧𝙨. 𝙒𝙝𝙚𝙣 𝙬𝙚 𝙩𝙚𝙡𝙡 𝙨𝙤𝙢𝙚𝙤𝙣𝙚 𝙬𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙮 𝙨𝙝𝙤𝙪𝙡𝙙 𝙙𝙤, 𝙬𝙚 𝙖𝙧𝙚 𝙩𝙧𝙮𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙩𝙤 𝙢𝙖𝙣𝙞𝙥𝙪𝙡𝙖𝙩𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙢 𝙞𝙣𝙩𝙤 𝙗𝙚𝙝𝙖𝙫𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙬𝙖𝙮 𝙬𝙚 𝙬𝙖𝙣𝙩 𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙢 𝙩𝙤 𝙗𝙚𝙝𝙖𝙫𝙚.” – 𝙈𝙖𝙧𝙨𝙝𝙖𝙡𝙡 𝙍𝙤𝙨𝙚𝙣𝙗𝙚𝙧𝙜
What options does the other person have when you’ve already decided you’re right and the only job the other person has is to submit to your authority in the matter and correct themselves somehow?
Here are some tips for keeping the “shoulds” in check…
Be aware of your own assumptions. Assumptions take for granted something is true, even though you may not have any evidence to support your conclusions. You can tell you’re assuming if your thoughts or statements sound like:
– “I assume that…”
– “It’s clear that…”
– “I’m sure that…”
– “You must…”
Be aware of your own biases, preferences, habits. We all have biases, which are our own personal beliefs and opinions. Our biases can lead us to make assumptions without even realizing it. The way you do things can feel like “normal” because it works for you. After a while, you may begin assuming your beliefs about the world are universal.
But just because someone doesn’t behave the way you think they “should” doesn’t mean that they are wrong or that they are being disrespectful. Try to be open-minded and understanding of the other person’s perspective.
Ask questions. Curiosity is to “shoulds” what water is to the Wicked Witch of the West. Because curiosity doesn’t assume, judge, or claim authority. Curiosity understands you don’t know what someone is thinking or feeling until you ask.
The bottom line. Communication is best seen as a way for both people to understand each other’s perspectives. It’s not about being right. If you can do this, you will be more likely to have open, honest, productive conversations with far fewer misunderstandings.
Lastly, we all make mistakes. If you do find yourself thinking in terms of “shoulds,” try to catch yourself and remind yourself that everyone is different. By being mindful of your thoughts and behaviors, you can reduce the chances of miscommunication and improve your communication skills.
It’s taken me years to hone the level of self-awareness needed for consistent should-spotting and swatting. The results are I’m a far more present and compassionate listener. The clients I’ve helped reduce ‘shoulding’ feel calmer, less emotionally reactive and have better conversations. I’m happy to discuss how I can help you refine your communication game. Message me and I’ll explain how.