Seems like we shouldn’t…

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“The word “should” is the most damning and damndable word in the English language.”

–     A mentor of mine, quoting a mentor of his

Yes, every life has a story, if we’ll only read it.  How we read it matters, too.  How we listen to the stories of every life in our circle matters, a lot.

It’s been said that poor listening is due to figuring out what we’re going to say next instead of understanding what the speaker is saying.  It’s not just a Steven Covey thing, seeking first to understand is a key ingredient to being a difference maker.

Will Rogers said, “Never miss a good chance to shut up,” and a great time to shut up is when we’re reading the story of someone else’s life.  And advice is something we ought not to offer unless asked, and even rarely when asked.  Unless we’ve invested a tremendous amount of time in understanding someone’s story, our advice, our “shoulds” are likely to do as much damage as they are good.

“You should try meditation…”

“You should worry less…”

“You should get over it…”

“You should apologize…”

“You should…”

The problem with “shoulds” is they have a tendency to originate from the perspective of stuff that’s already happened, and we know, as difference makers, all that matter is what we do, next.

Rephrasing for emphasis, here’s the deal:  we really have no idea what someone else should or should not do, and that might be true even if we know their story intimately.  I can’t speak for you, but I’m not always sure what I should and shouldn’t do, unless I am really in tune with the situation, all the biases I bring to the situation and as many of the variables as possible, and even then, it’s a crap shoot.

No matter how good our intentions are, our “shoulds” should be very, very rare indeed.

Reading to understand is different than reading to rebut or to dispute or to debate or to advise.  Reading to understand is about empathy, caring, curiosity and wonderment.

 


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Trackbacks

  1. […] picture is better than our “shoulds,” as we covered last Thursday.  No one wants to know why we think they should or shouldn’t do or not do something.  A […]

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