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You know what you should do……

Posted by: Joyce Matthews   |   No Comments   |  Posted on: Nov 04, 2012

How many times have you heard someone say, “What you should do is…”?
Or maybe they said, “If I were you I would…..” Or even “you need to….” Or “You have to…….”
Sounds familiar? Can you remember the context? You probably weren’t even asking for advice, but someone was very willing to give it and to tell you what you should be doing.
I heard and saw it a couple of times last week. In a coffee shop a couple of friends speaking, “You need to do such and such”, and on Twitter “You have to ….” both times my reaction was the same – Who does this person think they are that they should be telling others what to do? What assumption are they making by telling the other person how they should behave? What beliefs do they have about themselves?
And having reflected on my reaction, I still can’t decide if it’s the inner child in me rebelling at being told what to do, or my human need for autonomy bristling at someone thinking that other people aren’t capable of  making their own decisions. Have you ever felt the same?
The one thing I am certain about is the feelings the phrase evoked in me.
I literally ‘bristled’ – my hackles went up – I was like a hedgehog.
That a few seemingly innocuous words strung together could make me feel quite so indignant made me wonder about what was behind those words and my feelings and physical reaction to them.
So I thought about which words actually evoked the feelings. “Should, need, have to, must, would” are the main culprits for me. And in the context of someone else using them to try to direct behaviour and thinking, they can be pretty powerful little stingers.
How many times have you said to a class or a group that you are coaching or training, or even a friend that you are chatting with, “I need you to……” or “What you need you to do is…………” or “If I were you I would….”
Who is that all about? It certainly isn’t about the learner, or the other person, is it? It’s all about the person saying it. So what is that ‘need’? A need to be listened to, a need to be obeyed, a need to be believed, a need to be thought an expert, a need to be in control, or something else?
What type of a person says to another person, “You need to do this”?
We all know there are certain situations where people ‘need’ to do as they are told – usually life or injury threatening situations, where ropes or security harnesses or safety procedures have to be followed to avoid some terrible catastrophe, but is that the case in a classroom or on the football field or on Twitter or having a chat over a coffee?
You see it turns out that words like ‘need, should, ought to, have to’ can reflect how we feel about ourselves and life in general. Whether we feel we are driven by necessity and requirements or whether we are open to possibility and opportunities. And it can all be revealed in how you communicate and the words you use.
The gym is a great place to hear it. If you go to any gym, any day of the week, you can see members who all look really glum and sad. Listen to them talk about how they have to come to the gym, what exercises they need to do, and how they must exercise to get fit, needing to do it at a set time every day otherwise they won’t do it at all. What are they doing it for? Because they ‘need’ to? Because someone has told them to?
So think about these words for a minute – you know yourself what do you need to do in life. How does it feel when someone else tells you?
Now, think about how it make you feel when someone else invites you to think about what’s possible for you to do, what you can do, what you might do, and what you  will do?
Which phrases do you hear being used most often? Which ones do you use? What makes you use them? Which ones do you prefer to hear?
What if you change the words you use? What is it possible to do now?

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