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Nonviolent NZ Communities

Bringing Authentic and Compassionate Communication to Individuals, Communities and Organisations 

Based on the work of Marshall B. Rosenberg and the Centre of Nonviolent Communication and

Daniel Goleman and Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations



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How the Word SHOULD can be Harmful and ONE Empowering Alternative

Posted on 4 July, 2015 at 21:50 Comments comments (2956)

Camelia Petrus, PGdip Psychology

As I have become more interested in my internal dialogue and how it affects the way I feel about myself I have started to realize how much ENERGY the words have. I hope that one day this energy could be measured. I really wish.

There are few words in particular that I am looking closely at and try to understand their power.

Today I’d like to address the word ‘SHOULD” which is present in our everyday dialogue with self and others.

“I should relax more.”

“I should get in touch with my friend.”

“I should be better organised.”

Sounds familiar?

How does it feel?

I personaly feel disempowered!

When I say “I should relax more” I feel hurt, guilt and disappointment.

When somebody else tells me “you should relax more” I find it demanding and disconnecting.


When I look closer at “I should relax more” I see the demand behind it and demand does not work with me. I value choice and freedom.

Empowering Alternative

With that clarification comes the realisation that my need for choice is not being met.

If I replace the word “should” with “choose”, then my statement sounds like this: “I choose to relax more”.

Once I say that, I feel in charge and I understand that the responsibility for the outcome stays with me.

Making choices involves knowing your motivation.

To clarify what my motivation is, I ask myself “How would I feel if I would keep working without relaxing?”

The answer is: tired, unproductive, worried, disconnected from pleasurable aspects of life including spending time with family, friends and nature.

To the question: “How would I feel if I would relax frequently?” my answer is: joyful, present, alive, productive, gaining self-respect, healthier, in touch with life.


Well…I like that and I want to experience all those beautiful outcomes, therefore I CHOOSE TO RELAX.

“I choose to relax” comes out of space of choice, freedom and responsibility and I sense its empowering energy, my shoulders become relaxed, I take a deep breath.. .

“I should relax” comes out of obligation, guilt, fear...I sense the energy being drown out of me, my shoulders get tense, and my breathing becomes short.

Now, how all these statements sound to you?

“I CHOOSE TO get in touch with my friend.”

“I CHOOSE TO be organised.”

“I CHOOSE TO read more.”

What about the question: “What SOULD I do?” How do you feel about it?

Removing the word “should” from vocabulary takes a bit of awareness and practice and it comes with great rewards. Replacing “should” with more helpful dialogue leads to a compassionate relationship with self and others.

Oh!..and by the way. Watch for all the messages that come your way such as:

“Food that you should eat”.

“Movies that you should watch”

“Things you should know” ….