How Do You Know It Should?

I have a form to fill out and return in the postage-paid envelope. I filled out the form. It’s 21 pages. It does not fit into a #10 (business) envelope. I tore the envelope trying to fit the form into the envelope.

I called the person who mailed me the form and explained. I planned to put it into a larger envelope, but I have none. It would take me a day to get to Staples, buy an envelope and then send it.

“I’ll send you one!” she said. She was freaking perky. (Think several more exclamation marks on that sentence.) It’s an envelope. It’s not a unicorn or a rainbow. It’s an envelope.

“Okay, make sure you send a large one, the 8.5 x 11 size, right?” I asked.

“Oh, I was going to send you a new envelope just like the other one. It should work,” she said.

“Please either send a new size envelope or I’ll get one,” I said.

“Well,” she said. “It should fit.”

I have the data. I’m not sure what data she thinks she has, but I know that small an envelope is not going to fit a tri-fold 21-page form. Just not. I have data and experience. I tried it. Doesn’t work.

Sometimes, people tell me I should like something, like peppers. I am one of those strange people who does not like sweet peppers: green, red, orange. Doesn’t matter what kind of pepper it is, it does not taste sweet to me. In fact, it tastes horrible, just like asparagus. (I do like the taste of black pepper and hot pepper on my food. It’s eating peppers I don’t like.)

I can’t stand asparagus. I only like it drenched in butter and salt, because who doesn’t like butter and salt?

I have developed a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to the shoulds in my life. My first reaction is to assume the opposite. If someone says I should like something, I assume I won’t. (Even if that something is not peppers or asparagus.)

You should see me when people say, “You should be able to walk that far.” How can they know how my vertigo is doing?

This business with the shoulds can be even worse at work. Clients have told me, “People should want to use agile!” or “People should want to learn!” Or, “People shouldn’t feel that way about change.”

People own their own ideas and data. The problem isn’t that people “should.” The problem is that other people assume they know what we think, feel, or want to learn. How do they know?

When we own our data, we know what should work for us. We have experience. Without data, it’s supposition, ours or the other person’s. We might be willing to try, but this should business? How can we know?

I have to wait for that perky envelope to arrive to get this todo off my list. Oh well. It did give me fodder for a great question of the week.

That is the question: How do you know it should?

4 thoughts on “How Do You Know It Should?

  1. sascha

    Dear johanna, thanks for these thoughts. I observe this kind of behavior very often, with envelops, with peppers, and even with feelings (“You shouldn’t be sad / angry / glad about that.”). My guess is, that this is due to the complexity of the world and the unability of people to deal with it. In German we say “ostrich politics”: If you don’t want to deal with something, you put your had in the ground. If you don’t see it, it’s not there. So: If I cannot help you with your envelop problem I simply deny that it is there and therefore (!) the form has to fit into the smaller envelop. There are peppers on the pizza and therefore you have to like them. There is no other solution. It’s quite sad though if you are willing to find a real solution and everyone around you is denying the problem… Back to your question: I don’t know THAT it should but IF I know that it should > I know (sooner or later) that I am actually unwilling to deal with complexity.

    1. johanna Post author

      Sascha, you are welcome. I like that: “If you don’t see it, it’s not there.” I laughed at that. Reality will intrude at some point.

  2. Yury Makedonov

    On the other hand you may offend a person by refusing to do what he believes you should do.
    One of my Facebook friends unfriended me after I pointed that an article “I should have read” was published by a site that was on my black list of #fakenews.

    1. johanna Post author

      Yury, I laughed out loud! I suspect I would have a great post if I write up all those troublesome words: should, just, and I am sure there are more…

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