In spite of what I learned not to do, I find myself occasionally using the words, “They should”. But I also react to those words when I hear them in conversation. I will describe each word separately.
When Jojo says,”They should”, who is he referring to as they? Does he have people in mind or is this just a nebulous reference? Perhaps Jojo does not know who they is, himself. Jojo may be thinking that persons in power are not common people like ourselves but have all the answers.
So when Jojo says, “They should not allow marijuana smoking in public places,” who is he referring to as they? The policeman? The parent? The salesperson? Does it ever occur to Jojo that he might be just the person who could initiate working on the issue at hand?
At one time, another teacher and I were preparing adult volunteers to work with seniors dealing with mental health issues. Our manual for the course emphasized that it’s best to remember that “one shouldn’t should on anybody”. How we make a suggestion can impact the person’s response.
When Katrina tells her family that they should dress up for the gathering, she may be implying that she wants them to do it the way she would do it. Moreover, using the word should can make the suggestion somewhat demanding. How much gentler it would be to say, “Have you ever thought of…, or “If I were in that situation, I might…”. The person receiving the opinion, then, may be more disposed to receive the suggestion.
And by the way, maybe I want to think about whether I shouldn’t should on myself either!
S. Janet Thielges