Should is a naughty word. Why? Should is linked with expectations and their projection on the world.
Everyone has their own personal perspective. They are based on each specific person’s values, beliefs, upbringing, culture, etc. I think of them as the lenses that we see the world through. They impact how we think about ourselves, others and the universe around us.
There is nothing wrong with having a personal perspective. Everyone has one. It’s normal and natural.
The difficulty is that everyone has their own perspective and as result, everyone has their own expectations. Expectations of themselves. Expectations of others. Expectations of the world around them.
Again, there is nothing wrong in having an expectation. They are a natural result of having a perspective and an opinion. Unfortunately they create some difficulties whenever they become a ‘should’. I should have done this. You shouldn’t think that. They shouldn’t behave in that way.
Expectations are a problem whenever a single person tries to force their unique perspective of reality onto the world as if it is reality.
This can be seen in a number of ways.
For some people, part of the negativity they experience in their life is linked with their own expectations of themselves not being met. I’m one of these people. I can get angry or frustrated at myself when I don’t do as well or as much as I think I’m able or capable of doing. I should have exercised today, I should have done more work, I should have done this, I should have gone there…
But really? Should I? Should you? Are these expectations that we have for ourselves really fair or justified? Are they things that are really our responsibility? Or are they just excessive expectations that appear nonsensical when looked at differently, when seen from another view point.
The next time you use the word ‘should’ have a think about it. Is the expectation that has caused you to use the word ‘should’ really fair? Is it just and valid? Maybe it is, maybe it’s not. But if it’s stressing you out, getting you angry or causing you negativity in some way then it is definitely worth reassessing.
I personally find the tools in managing negativity very useful when I do this.
‘Should’ also becomes a problem when you use it to push your own expectations on others.
Everyone is different; built up from different values, heritage, upbringing and experience. Is it really fair for you to apply your own expectations to them? Depending on the situation, in some cases it might be, in others, it might not. But in all cases it is worth considering further rather than just assuming it is.
Either way, communicating the reasoning and emotion behind your expectation in a clear and understandable way is key. If others can understand why you feel the way you do, or why you think such a thought, they’re much more likely to listen and understand your perspective than if you simply use ‘should’. Even if they do understand, it doesn’t mean that you’re right. A different perspective may be just as correct.
It’s worth keeping in mind that there is a lot of potential in differences. New viewpoints and perspectives can see opportunities were they can’t be seen from traditional positions. See my post on valuing differences to know more.
Others Pressure on You
In the same way that you may find yourself applying your expectations to others, other people may apply their expectations to you. You should do this. You shouldn’t wear that. You shouldn’t go there. While you’re in a position to think about your own behaviour and change it, unfortunately you can’t make them change theirs. It’s not going to be very helpful if you start telling them that their expectations don’t apply to you or that they’re wrong. It will just piss them off.
In that situation there’s only one successful way out; clear communication.
It’s very difficult to do, but listening to them first in order to understand their perspective will ultimately give you an opportunity to be heard. You might even learn something along the way. Check out my post on communication to know more.
A Quick Summary
- Everyone has their own perspective based on their own history, background, culture and experience
- Expectations are a natural result of an individual having a perspective or view point
- When expectations become a ‘should’, it leads to challenge and difficulties
- In challenging or difficult situations it is worth considering and reassessing your own expectations because they may be a part of the issue
- Taking the time to understand other people’s perspective can provide clarity over their expectations