Susan 🐝 Rooks, The Grammar Goddess

4 years ago · 3 min. reading time · visibility 0 ·

chat Contact the author

thumb_up Relevant message Comment

Wednesday Words: Are You "Shoulding" All Over Everyone?


I am republishing this post that I originally created in October 2015 thanks to a post I read that Edward Lewellen just wrote (and that Sarah Elkins tagged me in). 


Language is meant to help us humans communicate, but sometimes even with our best efforts, we end up with a result we never intended.

Years ago, I took my car in to a local service station. My oil light was on, and even I knew that meant I should get an oil change. Duh. The service guy lifted the car up, unscrewed the cap, and . . . thick, black, tarry stuff slowly fell out of the car.

He had a truly horrified look on his face. 

Here’s what he said to me (close enough, anyway): 

Brush Up on Your
American Grammar Skills

Grammar Goddess Communication
Look Smart. Sound Smart.

SusanR@GrammarGoddess. com


“Ma’am! Look at this! This isn’t even oil anymore! Don’t you know you should have brought your car in months ago? You could have ruined your engine! You should have kept to the schedule. You should have . . . you should have . . .”

“Shoulding” all over me, he was.

Was he wrong? Not about the oil — that was so old and thick it almost plopped out of the car.

Not about my having waited way too long to get the oil changed (the red light really means GET. THE. OIL. CHANGED. NOW!).

Not about having been dumber than dumb.

He was right about all those things. 

But he never saw me at his service station again.

Why? I’m sure you know. Because no one can go back and do it over, and to keep reminding someone of what she should have / could have / needed to have done is pointless and hurtful. But we all do it! We shame others, reminding them of their total failure – and there’s nothing they can do about it. Heck, we shame ourselves as well -- far too often.

I had gone into that service station feeling like a perfectly normal grownup; I left feeling like a stupid-as-anything five-year-old. And I never went back.

Of course, I got over it. But as I began my career as a corporate trainer, focusing on communication skills, I vowed to help others learn how to manage language so they wouldn’t hurt anyone else (including themselves) that way.

Two simple words can save the day when we’re trying to correct a behavior. Nothing in the past can be changed; we can only create a new future. And the more we can focus on the future – and use these two little words – the better our interactions / relationships / results will be.

                                                            Next time

                                       NEXT TIME

                             NEXT TIME

Next time puts us into all those tomorrows where changes can be made.

Next time takes away shame, embarrassment, and misery at having done something that cannot be undone or corrected.

Next time allows a relationship to continue in a positive manner, and isn’t that what we all want?

So, if the service station guy had said something like this, I would have returned.
“Ma’am, it

looks like it’s been a long time since you had your oil changed. The next time you receive a reminder from us about your oil change, please bring in your car right away so we can keep it running as it should. It will be better for the car and safer for you.”

I would not have felt shamed. I would have felt like a grownup who had gotten a valuable reminder.

Let’s be smart and kind with others who may have made an error; let’s help them see what can be done the next time to create a better result.

Have you used words like should or must and realized that they are hurtful? Do you have other ways to help correct an issue? Please share your stories with us. 


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you learned something, I hope you will . . . 

Find it relevant and/or share it, so your connections can see it and perhaps learn too. 

Comment, so you can be seen by my connections. You never know who would be interested in YOU! (Ask Deb Helfrich how well it worked for her!) 


My previous posts can be seen here on my website, and they're easy to find because they're categorized.  


Do the associates in your company look and sound as smart as they are? They would if they could take one of my Brush Up on Your Skills workshops right where they work. If your company hires outside experts to teach any topic to its associates, I would appreciate your sharing my posts and website with your Human Resources or Training Manager. 

Are you a member of an association or other group that is looking for a speaker for one of its meetings? There are many communication-based topics that would create a lighthearted and interesting presentation. 

thumb_up Relevant message Comment

Lisa Vanderburg

4 years ago #19

I have found...(a sage way of introduction), that eye-balls times. I KNOW that I can incinerate people with my eye-balls, yet it doesn't stop the sweetest old dude or dudette from telling me their woes. Not that I mind - just interferes with my self-image :) You're a doll! X

Sarah Elkins

4 years ago #18

I'm so glad you shared this one again, Susan \ud83d\udc1d Rooks, the original raised alarm bells for me and completely changed the way I think of - and use - that word.

Sarah Elkins

4 years ago #17

Not so sure about the gender thing, Phil Friedman; it could be a generational thing, though I've met some women older than I am who would have said exactly what Phil said!
Lisa Vanderburg, we weren't connected, but I just followed you so we are. I think we all get a rise when we see someone do something wrong that we notice because we're experts in that area. I will never argue that the guy was wrong about the oil; he was RIGHT! My only gripe was his inability to rein in his frustration knowing that I'd really hurt my car (fresh oil is necessary) and to find a way to approach me that didn't demean me. I know that when I read articles by someone who says he or she is a published author (or even worse, an editor / copyeditor / proofreader) -- and I find glaring goofs -- I wince. But at least the writer can't see that online. Phew! At one lunchtime face-to-face networking meeting, there are a couple of writers who pass around their latest whatever. One is pretty darn good. The other? Not so much. I work HARD to not show my . . . frustration, knowing that the poor writer is killing his chances of anyone taking him seriously. And yes. He knows what I do. By the way -- many thanks for that compliment. Much appreciated!

Cyndi wilkins

4 years ago #15

I've noticed a trend in these 'teaching moments' all over the place this week...It's been a good week to buzz;-)
It certainly would have been a nice and professional approach, Sandra \ud83d\udc1d Smith!

Lisa Vanderburg

4 years ago #13

Hey @Susan Rooks...damn...won't highlight! I'm (also) a 'wimmin-what-does' so I totally get where you're coming from! Anyone who is selling a necessity has a 'tude....why is that? It's a tiny acidic dollop of momentary superiority that they get in their lives. A moment where they think berating is a gesture of competence. We all see it everywhere, but I have to encourage you - your writing is pure pleasure to read! Oh...and, stuff them!
Thanks, @Lisa Vanderburg!
And that's a wonderful thing to let me know, Sandra \ud83d\udc1d Smith! Thank YOU.
Thanks for the story, Cyndi wilkins, and the second comment as well. Yeah. it'll probably be like that for a long time to come. But the more we can see how to help someone else learn from an error and not hate us for it -- the better off we'll all be.

Lisa Vanderburg

4 years ago #9

Wonderful buzz I certainly can equate with and a wonderful pick-up Cyndi wilkins!

Cyndi wilkins

4 years ago #8

I had a similar situation happen years ago when bringing my car in for service...Now keep in mind this place was a muffler shop, so I wasn't sure of their 'scope of practice' shall we say...but I went there because my dad knew the owner of the station and was a very lucrative customer, as dad assumed responsibility for the maintenance of all the police cruisers in his department...Let's just say the guy had a great gig here. At his suggestion, I brought in a list of some repairs I needed to have done to see if perhaps this guy employed the mechanics capable of doing the repairs...You know....keep it in the family;-) Anyway, the guy has no idea (AT FIRST) who I am when I walk in with my list...I ask shop guy if they service anything other than mufflers and he gives me a dirty look with a snarky..."Yes, of course we do." Duh...Ok...I wasn't sure...your sign says muffler I present him with my list...he snaps it out of my hand and shoves it back across the counter at me and says..."This is a very unintelligent way of doing this." Now the waiting area is full of people...some of which I knew as I was a mail carrier in this area at the time and was in uniform...To say it was embarrassing is an understatement. The long and short of it is...this guy catches a glimpse of my name at the top of the stationery...Now he looks sick to his stomach...I said not another word when he began back peddling...and you guessed it...The guy lost a great gig because of his 'unintelligent customer service' Fried that bridge to the ground.

Cyndi wilkins

4 years ago #7

Huge lesson here for anyone, but especially for those in business for themselves Susan \ud83d\udc1d Rooks...Unfortunately, I think this guy's attitude is typical in that setting...and you can bet your boots he would not have had the 'brass ones' to say that to another guy;-)
Oh, and Franci\ud83d\udc1dEugenia Hoffman, beBee Brand Ambassador? Thanks for sharing the post!
I have as well, Franci\ud83d\udc1dEugenia Hoffman, beBee Brand Ambassador, but that day in the garage? What could I say . . . he was right and I was embarrassed. As Maya Angelou always said "... people will never forget how you made them feel."
Nice one Susan \ud83d\udc1d Rooks but I was raised to be "nice" as well, which sometimes is not in my best interest. However, I do my voice my opinion and coat it with sugar. I've walked out of many situations where the employees were rude with a smile on my face because I "nicely" told them to shove it.

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #3

Yes, Susan, I know it's mostly a gender thing. Ironically, the grease monkey who sets out to berate you probably wouldn't say a thing to a guy who comes in. Well, perhaps someday the world will be different. Cheers!
Yeah, Phil Friedman, but even though there are those who say I have brass ... I'm still female, raised to be "nice." Sigh.

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #1

Well put, Susan. My answer in such cases is a bit less polite: "Look, if it weren't for dumbasses like me, smartasses like you wouldn't have any business. So STFU and do the work for which I am paying you, or just tell me you'd prefer I go somewhere else." That usually puts an end to any recreational shaming. Cheers!

More articles from Susan 🐝 Rooks, The Grammar Goddess

View blog
2 years ago · 3 min. reading time

When You Don't Know ... Are You Willing to Ask for Help?

Do you remember being a kid and wanting to grow up ...

3 years ago · 1 min. reading time

Thursday Thought: Every Day Should be Gratiday!

Yes, of course I made the word up! · But it occurr ...

3 years ago · 1 min. reading time

We Keep on Learning, Right?

Have you ever realized how little you know about s ...