The late Dorothy Corkille Briggs taught me to choose FREEDOM WORDS (wish, want, choose to, prefer, desire) over PRISON WORDS (should, ought, must, have to, everybody.)

Prison words tend to put another person on the defensive. Defensiveness is magnified as most of us were raised by parents who used prison words in their daily communication: “You should know better!” “You ought to do better in school.” ‘you have to eat everything on your plate.” ‘Everybody will think you are rude if you eat like that!” Super-glued from whatever you were being criticized for are the words used to communicate the criticism.

I was having lunch with the keynote speaker at an event, and he asked, “Sandy have you ever done anything you didn’t want to do?” I laughed and he asked me to give an example, “I don’t want to do housework!” He smiled and asked in his soft, patient voice, “Then why do you do it?” “So my house is clean for my children and me, it looks good, and is healthy.” Again, he was patient, “Then you WANT to do housework so your home is clean for your children and healthy.”

His point was that we develop an attitude when we “should” on ourselves. Our victim feelings surface. We feel burdened by what we have to do. A small change of words, I want to do housework, changes your mood and ability to do it more lightly. Even with that wisdom spoken, I have never heard myself say, “I want to do housework today!” Oh, well…….

Lastly, don’t “should” on yourself? If you tell yourself that you should do anything, chances are good you’ll have resentment behind your efforts. “I need to…” or “I’m going to….” are received by your small child inside with more ease.

Well, I should end this piece, and……(seriously?)

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Scott A. McDaniel photo