He Should, She Should

When I was a toddler, my mother took me to the doctor for a regular checkup. After examining me and asking a few questions about developmental benchmarks, he turned to my mother and said, “Victoria should be talking by now.” You can imagine how alarmed my mother became. His “should” intimated that I was developmentally behind.

In retrospect, my mother is glad that I didn’t start talking any sooner than I, because she claims that once I started speaking, I never stopped. I talked when I was supposed to and not one minute before. Truly, I really was smarter than the doctor thought. After all, my sister spoke for me. She was older and could get me what I wanted much more quickly than I could with my limited vocabulary.  

How many times have we heard someone say we “should have” done something else when what we did resulted in less than desirable results? How many times have we said these words to ourselves? Is hearing or saying these words ever productive? Or, are they simply judgmental, resulting in negative feelings?

Giving these questions careful thought, it’s become clear to me that these words have never once produced anything but guilt and/or negative feelings.

The dictionary defines the word ‘should’ as, “used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticizing someone's actions.” It is one’s subjective opinion of what another is capable of doing based on one’s own experiences and beliefs.

On any given day at school, I hear ‘shoulds’ and ‘if you had’s’ used all over campus in reference to a student’s or colleague’s actions.

Many misunderstandings happen because we only see things through our own eyes. According to Stephen Covy in his book The Seven Habits of Successful People, we are all guilty of prejudging others. He suggests we put ourselves in another’s place, so we find out why they haven’t done what we thought they “should have” done. If we did, we might respond differently to them.

Replacing “should haves” with “how can I support you?” we might find we misjudged the other person.

If we could walk in another’s shoes, we might see that they are too tight. V. Olivadoti

Guilt is unproductive. Telling anyone “they should have” done something differently creates guilt in the one being judged. It does not promote behavioral changes that would create different results.

I believe people set out to create positive results. If they anticipated the negative results, they would have done something different. Unless mentally unstable, people do not set out to create negative results deliberately.

I believe, “If students knew how to do things differently, they would.”

No one deliberately misses due dates. No one really wants to have a desk that looks like a tornado hit it. No one wants a backpack that is stuffed with crumpled papers. But even the best of students do. Would they change if they could? I say absolutely and emphatically, YES!!!” 

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