Why Saying ‘Should’ Sets You On A Negative Path Of Criticism

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Why is saying "should" problematic?

It's the word I continuously aspire to remove from my vocabulary.

Often, people go to work and think, "I should work harder. I should be doing better. I should be making more money."

They get on social media and think, "I should look like that. I should be having more fun."

They go home and think, "My house should be bigger, better, and nicer."

Then, they start believing, "I should be a better person. I should not get upset. I should be stronger."

These thoughts can put anyone in distress. And, often, what they're actually saying is, "I should be more like everyone else."

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What does saying "should" set you on a path of self-criticism?

The definition of the word "should" is, "Used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticizing someone's actions."

Note the word "criticizing."

The moment you use the word "should" — either for yourself or others — you're getting on the path of criticism, whether you realize it or not.

Does anyone operate better in situations where they feel criticized? Probably not.

"Should" is the authoritarian voice of not being good enough. Yes, it is essential to have lofty goals and aspirations, but if they feel like a compulsion, they will not be sustained in the longer run.

What if you reframe it as "I want to" or "I would love to"?

Using "should" in the past tense indicates holding on to regret. Not letting go of something or someone that did not work well in the past.

The cynicism and bitterness you're harboring are indicated by "should."

Yelling at a junior who goofed up, you feel justified but will it help in making them feel worse?

You have a small chance of transforming them if you used a coaching approach and asked them what went wrong and what would be the right approach they would want to try in the future, instead of what they should have done.

"Should" is the stern parental critical voice inside all our heads. Not "should-ing" means you're OK with failure, have no regret, and willing to be more open to doing things in a way that seems fun and enjoyable, instead of treating it like a task or a burden.

"Should" suggests that you don't accept who or where you are. You learn best and deliver best when you're happy and joyful.

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Another negative outcome of using "should" in your conversations is that it brings out your rebellious streak.

Often, you don't end up doing the things you really should do.

People don't realize they have a rebellious streak against their own selves. It stems from refusing to do certain things as a child — things expected by adults.

In adulthood, many people rebel against their own self whenever they pressure themselves into an activity, even if it is supposedly good for them. No wonder it's hard to lose that weight.

"Should" indicates an unconscious act of rebellion. The inner voice says, "Yeah right, fool yourself as if I'm going to do it."

Every time I hear my clients use the word "should" too often, alarm bells start to ring.

I ask them, "Why should you? Who said you should? Where does this idea come from?"

On digging deeper and unraveling, most times, the idea of should come from ideals perpetuated in society.

Most of the time, the idea of what you should do comes from societal beliefs implanted within you in childhood. It's what you've decided a perfect person looks like.

This image of a perfect person does not exist, but media and people promote it as the only acceptable way to be.

Every time you see one of these images, your brain internalizes it as the visual representation of what it looks like to be "good enough," "lovable," or "successful."

You, then, consciously or subconsciously spend hours comparing yourself to this level of perfection.

Next time you catch yourself saying "should" — either in your head or to someone else — stop immediately.

Replace it with a better, more harmonious world.

For example, in place of, "What we should do to win this contract?", try, "What we can do to win this contract?", "What must we do to win this contract?", "What do we hope for, to win this contract?", or "What do we want to do to win this contract?"

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Bhavna Dalal is a master certified executive coach MCC ICF, speaker, and author of "Checkmate Office Politics" who helps people develop their leadership skills, such as executive presence, strategic thinking, influencing, and networking. To learn more about her work, visit her website or follow her on LinkedIn.

This article was originally published at Forbes India. Reprinted with permission from the author.