I know some of you think I am being trivial, pedantic even when I write about various words and their true meanings.
What’s the big deal many are thinking? I know a number of you have those thoughts about these articles. Trust me…I know.
Most of you will agree that there is a lot of power to words…power to hurt/harm/tear down…OR to build up/empower/elate. This is true in business and personal relationships.
On the personal side let me give you an example.
Something happens that you and your partner disagree over the end result. Your partner says to you… You should’ve known that!
What do you hear? As most replied to my post last week…you hear negativity, guilt thrown at you, you are hurt. I hear the relationship starting to crumble, even if your partner did not MEAN that..that’s what you heard.
It is just as important to be precise with your language in business. Using a single word incorrectly could cost you your business…which can be replaced. Can that relationship be replaced? It will never be the same, will it?
How many of you business owners regularly retain attorneys? Why do you do that? Hmmm, maybe because you want to be sure that your contracts…client, ownership, non-compete, etc. are worded just so. Lawyers train for years. Part of that training is to parse out the exact meaning of every word and phrase. Paralegals learn too. They don’t have as much formal training, but since they do most of the research for the attorneys and judges…they have to get it right. Or both lose their job.
A few days ago I asked, on the Heartrepreneurs ® page, the meaning of the word… should. I got a few responses. Almost all the responses included an obligation, duty, shame, something expected, pressure. All, except one person, conveyed a meaning full of negativity. One person gave a neutral reply.
Some of you know that about 20 years ago I took paralegal courses, most of which were taught by licensed attorneys. To drive home the point of being precise with our words one told us of a court case that revolved around the definition of one word. Guess what word that was? Yup…the word “should”.
One particular law was written with the word should. I’ll get to the dictionary definition in a minute. The prosecution/plaintiff was arguing that should mean must…no questions, an obligation as a demand. The defense counter-argued that should mean may..i.t was optional. In that case, the judge had to research the intent of the law when it was enacted.
For us, we research the words that were written by Noah Webster…a Connecticut native…born, lived and died here. Some pretty good people come from this great, little state. I digress.
Per Webster’s “should” originally was an Old English word meaning…I am obliged. 1. shall, 2. used to express obligation, duty, propriety, or desirability, 3. used to express expectation or probability, 4. used to express a future condition, 5. used in polite or tentative expression of opinion.
Looking at these definitions, I see nothing that states it as something that Must be done. It could be understood as may from def. #2.. expression of desirability…basically, it would be nice if you did this. I can see why many view it negatively…it’s used to express duty or obligation.
Many of us view obligation or duty as a burden. While many consider it their duty to care for aging parents, some consider that duty a joy…to continue loving their parents.
However, nothing in the law states that adult children Must care for their parents and so many shirk their duty and do not care for them…with no consequences to them.
In spite of the ambiguous meaning, most often the word carries the idea of shame, guilt, a burden…something undesirable.
Personally, I don’t believe all obligations or duties are a burden. A good portion of my life is governed by the code of chivalry..being a gentleman in the fullest sense. Part of that code is that I have a duty to protect those weaker, especially the ladies…in various ways, yet I do not consider that duty a burden. I am happy to fulfill that obligation.
Approximately 15 years ago I was in group therapy for major depression. Yup, I got cooties. We would often talk about our past using the words coulda, woulda, shoulda. Well I coulda did this to change that and… Or… I woulda did that if… Or… I shoulda done this… All those statements do nothing to lift us up, but the last one. I shoulda done this…puts guilt, shame and a burden on oneself. Some of us would say.. stop should-ing all over yourself.
So I say the word should has ambiguous, seemingly contradictory meanings. I say you should never…no no no.
I say that the word should is not a wise word choice to employ in any of your legal documents. I highly recommend that you banish the word …”should”.
Tim had a number of life experiences that provide him with a broad base of knowledge. Tim is a friend to all. He enjoys learning and helping others.