Blogging in English seems to be closely correlated with using English. Despite living in Ireland, I don’t use as much English as I wish to. Luckily, it is getting better. Every single coffee break with Irish people makes a difference.
There’s one word which has started to annoy me lately: “should”.
“This should go there.”
“One should do this.”
“You should avoid that.”
The word itself seems to be innocent; the annoying thing is the way it’s being used. Especially, when the information that “something should” is the only thing one has been told, without explanation of any reasons behind it or a chance to express one’s views on the matter.
The word “should” used at workplace does not mean task delegation.
Expressions intended to delegate a task are different. Consider the difference:
“Please do that.”
“I would like you to take this and bring it there.”
(“On my way, boss!”)
This should be done.
You should take this and bring it there.
(“Why should I?”)
“Should” a form of criticism
Another example of abuse is when talking about someone’s work.
“This should be there.”
In this case, word “should” is a concealed criticism, it means:
“You placed it wrong and you know that. It’s so obvious, that I won’t even explain that to you. And of course I won’t ask why you placed it there. Just do what I say!”
Otherwise, it wouldn’t sound “this should be there”, but something like:
“I see you placed it there, why not here? Are you sure this is right?”
“I disagree with the place you put it, but I might be wrong. I am willing to hear your reasons and discuss them so we can achieve common viewpoint.”
The third observation about “shoulds” is that lots of them are just dead wrong!
Flat statements of this kind don’t leave you a space for discussion. You have a choice: give up and agree or stand up and fight. If someone doesn’t leave any “I might be wrong” open, you have to open it yourself.
“You can be wrong.”
Most likely response?
“No no no!”
If somebody doesn’t see the possibility of being wrong, you have very little chances of convincing them. Even if you’re right.
Not mentioning that the possibility of being wrong is very, very unlikely to be zero. Anyone can be wrong about anything, unless it’s a proven mathematical theorem.
Every case of “should” usage mentioned here has a hidden layer. It’s either a criticism, a task non-delegation or a way to eliminate discussion. Why not just say it directly? Every instance of “should” can be replaced by a non-ambiguous expression.