There are few shoulds in life

February 20, 2013 by Joshua
in Blog

Some advice sticks with you more than others. I still remember words a great friend of mine told me in college. I remember he said it while consoling me over a breakup with a girlfriend, which would have put it in 1989 or maybe 1990.

Something that stands the test of time like that, I think speaks for itself.

He said

There are few shoulds in life.

I’ve written at length on this page on the value of avoiding judgmental language and how telling people they should do something implicitly judges them — you’re imposing your values on them.

How my friend put it states it simply and effectively, so I’m passing it on.

I’ll say it again:

There are few shoulds in life.

(By the way, I searched the web for this great wisdom I learned from my friend and the first other mention of it came from my own post on avoiding judgmental language. Read it too.)

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2 responses on “There are few shoulds in life

  1. Very few shoulds in life? I think some patterns exisist for years in society for its own reason. Should everyone make a contribution to society? Should kids be educated in school when the age reaches….Should I earn money to support myself when I grow up…? Should I meet my parent’s expectation otherwise they feel very disappointed to me? etc

    • Thank you for pointing out where I could clarify.

      I meant one person telling another they should or shouldn’t do something. They’re imposing their values on the other or trying to. The previous post I linked to on the topic — https://joshuaspodek.com/judgmental-realizing-part-iv — talked about how words like should implicitly judge others.

      Saying “you should do X” implies “you’re doing it wrong, I’m telling you how to do it right,” which sounds judgmental. I find talking about the consequences of someone’s actions more effective than judging them and telling them what they should do if your goal is to influence them.

      So should everyone contribute to society? I don’t know. Isn’t that their decision? If someone wants to be a hermit who’s place is it to stop them?

      Should you meet your parent’s expectations? Isn’t that your decision? Someone with different values might say it’s not your responsibility. If you tell each other what you should or shouldn’t do, each of you is setting yourselves up for an argument.

      If one person says you should do X and someone else says you shouldn’t, you just provoke debate based on different values.

      I didn’t mean someone saying to themselves what they should do. Then you don’t provoke an argument between different people.

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