Dan Boone wrote:When I feel the need to say "should" and can't supress it, I go for softening phrases: "I wonder if you should [whatever] if your goal is to..."
yeah. that's better.
I don't know that "should" is inherently problematic, but I do think that more often than not it creates an unhelpful personal dynamic.
to my mind there are a couple of things going on - the first is that one rarely has enough information to suggest what another person should do. best practice is still relative. looking at ecological dynamics, with their myriad interdepencies and contingencies, I get the sense that "it depends" is a better perspective than the more binary "should / should not."
the second is that even if we do somehow know what someone ought to do, having considered their personal context and the various nuances of their life, that manner of expressing it is not likely the most effective. this is what Dan is getting at. I tend to go for "you might consider ..." but this implies that I am genuinely interested in the best outcome for them or the planet. if I'm in a more base state and I am trying to prop myself up as an authority, "you should" does just fine
just joking, but I think Paul's assessment on that is pretty solid.
does that mean it's wrong for me to say "you should explore permaculture" to someone? not necessarily. but there is a chance that it's not what someone should actually be involved in at that time. it may not be the most relevant. maybe there are more pressing things to attend to in their life and maybe going down the permaculture rabbit hole would be at the cost of something that must come before. and maybe it'd sound better if I said "given your interest in XYZ, you might consider looking into this thing called permaculture..."
my worst experiences with the word "should" come from when I use it with myself. some kind of aggregate of the best of a hundred people whom I respect becomes a bullying voice that tells me things like "if you take your practice seriously, you should not be relaxing right now!" or "you should not be goofing off, ever! you have the planet to save!" and to remedy this inner bully I've decided to treat it like a hurt child, and offer as much grace to the various other parts of my mind that are vulnerable to this kind of bullying as I would my friends whom I want to support.
one last thought, then it's back to building new pig pastures: for me, the most infuriating thing about "should" is when someone says I should do something I was already planning on doing. that's worse than their suggesting something inappropriate for me because at least in those situations I could say "I've thought about that, but actually, because of these other factors ..." but if someone says I should do what I already was intending to do, and says it in a way that implies they didn't think I'd thought about it or was intending to, it ticks me off. probably a little personal issue of mine revolving around being thought of as stupid.