Should you or Shouldn’t you?
All these statements carry the same message – something isn’t going to happen.
“I should try to get more exercise…”
“I shouldn’t eat so much junk food…”
“That shouldn’t be allowed to happen…”
“They should make a law against it…”
They are great ‘excuse’ sentences that allow integrity to be partially preserved without the inconvenience of actually *doing* anything about the situation. They are usually used on their own, just empty statements and if you try to complete any of them, it’s odds on that the next word will be ‘but’ – and you might remember, from a previous newsletter, how destructive ‘but’ can be.
As an exercise, try completing one of those sentences by adding the word ‘so’ on the end… now that can be quite alarming, all of a sudden!
“I should try to get more exercise, so…” Just the addition of that simple ‘so’ has made inaction all but impossible. What was an ‘excuse’ sentence has become an ‘action statement’ which will encourage you to actually *do* something constructive. ‘And’ is almost as good.
A useful thing to do with either ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ is to completely remove them from your vocabulary as far as possible… which shouldn’t be difficult! Habit will have you using them, of course, but when that happens, a rephrasing will polarise the concept and integrity is given a healthy nudge. Try it with those statements above and you will discover how difficult it is to evade the issue – and don’t cheat by using ‘ought’!
There is one other use of the ‘should’ word, quite different, that is worthy of mention and that is what I call the “He should… I would” pattern. It’s used as a criticism and is wonderful bit of armchair politics. It’s very easy to see what somebody else *should* do and what we *would* do when it’s not us that has to actually get our bottom off the chair and get to work!