All Being Well… Talking about “Should”

One thing I love about coaching is picking up on certain words clients say that hold a lot of meaning. A word or phrase can hold a lot of power over us and we can use it so often we just don’t see how its affecting us.

Should is one of the words that comes up a lot. I am constantly surprised by how people’s body language changes when they start talking about things they should be doing. People’s faces drop, they turn their heads down, they break eye contact.

Should and it’s fancier sibling ought are words we use every day and do have their uses in language, but when we talk about ourselves or to ourselves about things we want to do, things we could do, things we will do we sometimes start saying should instead. Why is that?

Looking up the definition of should is pretty funny as it contains lots of things we are taught in coaching NOT to do with clients. Some choice quotes are:

“[should is] used to instruct…used to give advice…expresses unfulfilled expectation…obligation”

As a life and career coach, I’m not here to instruct you, advise you or hold a deadline above your head and say ‘well by next week you should do this’ and I don’t want you to say things like that to yourself either. I get it, when we all have things we know we need to do, but we haven’t done them yet that’s when the word tends to come in.

As a coach I’m here to stop you and ask questions around that. When you stop and reflect you might be surprised at what comes up. Sometimes there’s a complex reason, sometimes it’s as simple as “I just don’t want to do it” This is great, then we can talk about what this task is, we can talk about what would happen if you didn’t do it, what would happen if you did it first thing tomorrow, all in a space free from judgment. Maybe the reason you don’t want to do it is because you don’t have the confidence to do it, or you don’t have all the information you need in order to do it well. This is helpful to realise, you might not finish the conversation ready to do that one annoying should thing on your to do list, but you might know what you need to do next to get to that thing later on.

Should isn’t a bad word in itself. It’s useful “you should eat your breakfast” is a good one. But should like all words, is a tool which can be helpful or harmful depending on how you use it.  

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