"You Should Just Know!"


I remember a personal relationship years ago that was filled with harsh comments like, “You should know what I meant,” and “You should feel sorry,” and “You must not care.”

Clearly the relationship had major communication problems (and, well, other problems too).  Within the words was a clear sign I did not know to recognize at the time…  the “should” statements.

“Should” statements are an awful way to communicate.  They declare an assumption to the world that may not be accurate and, even if true, create a “push” message that others will instinctively resist.

“Should” statements are those statements where you critize yourself or others with words like “should,” “shouldn’t,” “must,” “ought,” and “have to.”

These words are demands.  They can be bullies.  They insist on control.  They are not seeking cooperation but submission.

Listen to people in an argument and these words will usually flow freely.

“You should know I don’t like that.”

“You must do what I say.”

“I shouldn’t have to remind you.”

People also use these words on themselves.  This can be common in people with depression or with low self-esteem.

“I shouldn’t be here.”

“I must stop expecting to do better.”

This type of thinking is one of the classic cognitive distortions we all have to some extent.  In very small doses, these are not even really a problem.  It is when they dominate our thinking that it creates problems in how we see the world, how we communicate with others and even how we feel about ourselves.

What can you do about “should” statements?  Well, if it is you, listen to yourself and when you hear yourself say these statements, back up and consider the situation without demanding something from others.  Either they will do what you prefer or they won’t.  But pushing them with these harsh statements is rarely effective and even if they concede, they will likely be resentful.  Not a good long-term plan.

If you hear this from others, realize that they are pushing you.  But ask yourself, “Why?”  Do you need a push for good reason?  Do they mean well?  Or is this just a bully?

Consider the relationship and what you derive of value from the relationship (and what you bring to the relationship).  Maybe it is good, may be it is not.  But consider the “should” statements as a clear sign to look at yourself and the relationship, then base your actions on the value (whether it be emotional or otherwise).

It can be an eye-opening experience when you learn to not get too wrapped up in the words once you know they can be simply signs of how the relationship is working (or not working).



About the Author

Glenn S. Phillips works with leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. An author and blogger, Glenn is often quoted in national media, plays a really ugly tuba (it even has a bullet hole) and is a fan of dark chocolate and great puns.