Here’s What You Should Do…

“Here’s what you should do….” is something I hear people say all the time.  I am extremely sensitive to these words because “You Should” and “You Need To” and other similar phrases are commands.  Commands sound controlling to other people, and people generally do not like to be controlled in their personal and workplace relationships.

There are a few exceptions to this, such as the military and some other settings in which commands are expected, respected, and required!

A moment of self-disclosure here… I really do not like it when someone speaks with the phrase “You need to.”  When I was younger and practicing my assertiveness, I would often respond to people in my personal life by saying “I don’t need to do anything, however I will consider what you are saying as a request.”  (This may have shocked people, however I think my husband eventually got used to it)!

In particular, women are very sensitive to these words (me included), and I see female partners bristle up in therapy sessions when their significant other use these kind of phrases.  I often stop the communication and teach people to use collaborative less dominant language, including phrases such as:

  • “I would suggest that you….”
  • “It would mean a lot to me if you were to….”
  • “I would like to request that you consider doing….”

This being said, you might be surprised to know that I am mellowing out now that I am of middle age.  I have observed that men talk to other men with control language all the time, so I think I hear it in a less sensitive way now.

Have you noticed that dudes will often say to each other, “Here’s what you need to do.”  They give each other advice in a friendly way and no one gets too offended.  Since men are socialized to communicate using control language as a way to appear confident, strong, and masculine – is it really fair for me to feel like someone is trying to dominate?

I recently had a session with a couple in therapy where we were discussing this exact problem (among others… as you can imagine).  The wife feels that her husband is telling her what to do, and he just sees it as giving her a suggestion – not a command!  Upon exploring this further and having known this couple for awhile, this was not a man who generally dominates his wife or controls the relationship in an unhealthy way.

My solution was to encourage the husband to try to remember to soften his language and be more collaborative with his wife.  However, I also suggested that the wife try to hear the words “Here’s what you need to do” as advice.  Given that the words “you need to” are coming from her husband with his male brain, she agreed to try to translate the words into a suggestion in her female brain.

Now we are getting into Mars and Venus gender differences here. LOL.

However, it is still my opinion that it is best to communicate with other people in a non-controlling way.  You never know which people, coworkers, friends, or neighbors might not hear the control language as a suggestion and become offended.   If you want to build relationships, I would suggest that you not take this risk!!!

So, this is my advice for today, “I would suggest you consider taking the words ‘Here’s what you need to do’ out of your vocabulary, but since I don’t want to control, whether you want to take my suggestion is completely up to you!”

If you need any support or assistance communicating in new ways with your partner or other important people in your life, please Contact my office for support and strategies!





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