Tool for Tuesday: The Tool You Should Not Use

Here’s something different: the tool not to use. The word should. When should you use the word should? Almost never. Why? The word is manipulative. As in, “you should have known I wanted the four-caret diamond.” It’s judmental: “You shouldn’t have an affair!” It’s guilt-provoking: “you should be here with me on Father’s Day.” It’s self-righteous: “you should know better.” It’s advice-giving, and we would do best never giving advice. We don’t know what is best for anyone else.

It’s a word that shouldn’t be used. Except, obviously, to make my point as in the last sentence.  Even if you’re a Mom or Dad, you can think of other ways to tell your kids to do something. Instead of saying, “You should take a sweater.” You can frame your suggestion as just that, a suggestion, so your kids learn to decide things on their own. (Obviously, I’m talking for kids of a reasonable age.)

You should take a sweater. Nah. You can say, “It might be cold. Do you think you want to take a sweater?” This makes you less of a nag. Helps kids think on their own.

“You should call your Aunt Hermelinda.” What can you say instead? “Have you done your good deed for the day? No? Good! Here’s something you can do–you can call Aunt Hermelinda!”

You should not steal. Well, it says so in the Ten Commandments. But that is more direct. Don’t steal.

Here’s a common one that is altogether unhealthy for us: “You should be over this by now.” No, no, and no again. Never should yourself and don’t should others. Things take as long as they take to get over.

Tool Not to Use: the word should.


About dianabletter

Diana Bletter is a writer living in Western Galilee. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, tabletmag, Glamour, The Forward, The North American Review, Times of Israel, and many other publications. Her first book, The Invisible Thread: A Portrait of Jewish American Women (with photographs by Lori Grinker) was nominated for a National Jewish Book Award. Her novel, A Remarkable Kindness, (HarperCollins) was published in 2015. She is the First Prize Winner of Family Circle Magazine's 2011 Fiction Contest and author of Big Up Yourself: It's About Time You Like Being You.
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