Training Badge
Submitted by ebn305 on



I've heard Mark suggest that the word "should" should not be used. What's your thinking?


HMac's picture

Eric - "should" inhibits open communication because using it in a sentence implies a judgment on the part of the user. So the other person now has an additional chore in processing the information: dealing not only with any facts in the statement but also navigating around the speaker's implicit opinion that's buried in the "should" (e.g, "John should have had this report done sooner").

Even if you're a frequent user of "should" you'll find it's realtively easy to eliminate from your conversations, once you're aware of it.


adragnes's picture

When you use the word should you indicate a desire without the willingness to extend yourself or pay to achieve it.


kklogic's picture

My favorite bumper sticker ever: "I will not should myself"

I dislike the word also. As mentioned, it connotates that you know what to do, you just aren't willing to do it. To use it with others who don't report to you - or for that matter, someone you relate to in your personal life - it's pretty presumptuous ("You know what you should do?)

TomW's picture
Training Badge


I've heard Mark suggest that the word "should" should not be used. What's your thinking?[/quote]

"Should" implies some kind of moral obligation or ideal condition, usually implying your judgments on actions or inactions related to them.

It's just inviting argument because two people may disagree on those morals or ideals. ("[i]The Sabbath should be on Saturday. No, it should be on Sunday[/i].") It might be more personal ("[i]People should be at work by 8:15. No, people should be able to come in when it best suits them[/i]."), but the arguments are still just begging to be made.

Using "should", with its embedded meanings, is just inviting a no-win situation.

fchalif's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge


The use of the conditional tense has very limited scope in business, if any at all. To say could, should or would is not specific or direct enough.

Look at the two examples below:

Who is to do What by When or "John is to present monthly production report by July 6th at 11:00AM"


Who could\should\would do What by When or "John should present monthly production report by July 6th at 11:00AM"

I often catch myself using it, and have made a conscious effort to stop. It is not an effective use of the english language if you want to get things done!

hughbutler1970's picture

"Should" is a modal auxilliary, not an example of the "conditional tense", which isn't really a tense either.

I agree with your sentiment, however.


BJ_Marshall's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

I actually like it when other use "should," because it gives me a chance to exceed expectations.

My boss uses it occasionally. I've noticed that his "should"s indicate something that he'd LIKE to happen but doesn't want to exert himself to bring it about. If I then take action in his "should," I look good because I've delivered more than he expected.

I, however, don't use the word. "The should stops here."

Hehehe, I can see Yoda now: "Do or do not; there is no should." :lol:


lazerus's picture

Using the word "should" creates an absolutist belief in the mind of the person using the word. In our world, there [b]really[/b] are no absolutes (except death, taxes, and apparently in my case, layoffs). Thinking something "should" or "shouldn't" occur is not rational, and will lead to upset, anger and a host of other negative emotions. Example: "All of my directs should be at their desks every morning at 8:00 to begin work". What happens if they are not ALL at their desks? By using "should", I've built an absolute and unrealistic expectation in my mind.

My comments come from my knowledge of the work of Albert Ellis, David Beck and others in what has come to be known as "Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy". The wikipedia article does a decent job of explaining it:
[url] Especially not the line: [quote]when people in an insensible and devoutly way overuse absolutistic, dogmatic and rigid "shoulds", "musts", and "oughts", they disturb and upset themselves.[/quote]

adragnes's picture

[quote="lazerus"]In our world, there [b]really[/b] are no absolutes (except death, taxes, and apparently in my case, layoffs).[/quote]

A bit off topic, I'm afraid, but you cannot even rely on taxes as an absolute. There are some countries out there without (or practically without) taxes. Unfortuntaly no taxation, means no representation. It seems accountability is the price governments pay for the ability to collect taxes, or maybe it is the other way round: tax is the price we pay for accountable government.


ramiska's picture

Are you unhappy about how things are? No. You are upset because things are not how they "should" be, according to your perception of events.

Dealing in measurables, rather than "should"s, creates a much more effective thought process.