Why Should Things Be Like We Think?

Bill Abbate

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Are you quick to assume someone should do something a certain way? Your way, that is! Do you judge others too quickly without realizing what you are doing? It happens to most of us more often than we care to admit. Making an incorrect assumption and inappropriately judging someone's actions can happen to anyone.

Is there a way to stop such madness? The solution to this problem is found in a recent My Mentor Jane episode on YouTube. The following content is used with Jane's permission! Let me share a good part of her script here. You can watch the referenced video at There's a way things SHOULD be.

The problem

It happens every day, this tug-of-war I play in my mind with my husband, Bill. The battlefront? Our powder room. The battle? Who opens the miniblinds every morning. It's a dark room with no direct sunlight, so everyone knows you should open the blinds the first thing every day. It's not a matter of privacy but common sense. Bill is always the first one up, and for the first three years we lived in our house, he never once opened those blinds. Every morning I would walk into the powder room, sigh as loudly as I could and almost sprain my wrist as I twisted the wand to open those blinds.

Do you feel me? If it's not the blinds, what is it? The dishes stacked the wrong way in the dishwasher? How the towels are folded? The wrong sweater put on your child? The best route to Costco? The right discipline when your teenage son breaks curfew?

We all have our ideas about the way things should be. If we're not careful, especially the older and more experienced we get, we assume we own the answer. That we know the best way, the right way, the most efficient and accurate way, the ONLY way.

The results of such thinking

Here's a lightbulb moment: There are three dangerous consequences to holding the assumption, "There's a way things SHOULD be."

  • First, we can develop a condescending and self-righteous way of interacting with other people. I didn't intend to hurt or disrespect my husband when I criticized him for not opening the blinds once again. In fact, I never clearly asked him to do it. I just assumed (here I go again) he knew the way it SHOULD be!
  • The second consequence of my assumption is that we miss opportunities to learn better ways to get things done. One friend complained when her mother in Law bought elastic shoelaces for her 5-year-old son because "everybody knows he'll never learn to tie his shoes." She admits those laces are a lifesaver every morning as she tries to get the kids ready for the school bus.
  • One more consequence of "should" thinking is that we pile on pressure and task after task as others conclude, quite logically, that there's no point in trying, no way to please us, so they give up and we're left taking over.

The solution

Of course, not all things can be left to personal preference.

  • I should wear a seat belt
  • I should show up to work on time
  • I should buy my wife a diamond heart necklace (oops! Forgot to edit that out!)

Without realizing it, we conclude that thinking or doing things a certain way is the only way that "should be."

So, let me rip off that band-aid: Next time you hear yourself protesting, That's not the way we do it, ask yourself, "Who says your way is Right and the other is Wrong? Maybe it is. Maybe it isn't. Who decided you get to decide?

And with holidays just around the corner, that means there's no one way to make green bean casserole, shovel the snow, or wrap a present. How about if you just sit back and relax? You might learn something!

Final thoughts

What Jane expresses certainly hits a nerve for most of us! I have lost count of how many times in life I have thought others should do things my way! Fortunately, catching yourself and consciously choosing to take a different tact can lower your level of frustration and create more peace in your life. There's nothing bad about that!

What are your thoughts on this subject? I would love to hear your comments below. I will be sure to pass them along to Jane. They will make a great dinner conversation for us!

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA
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