We should work

How a common phrase displays a fear of commitment

The phrase “that should work” has become a common part of my vocabulary. My friends and I alike often say those words in response to an invitation. It sounds like a valid response — the “should” in this phrase allows for proper ambiguity. It grants us the ability to refrain from making any commitment to plans too far in advance. It allows us to defer the difficult moment of committing our time to something or someone and hold on to brief freedom before plans are solidified. But what are the implications of this tendency?

These three words say a lot about the culture in which we live. We live in a society and attend a school where business is glorified and common. We are expected to have something going on every second of every day. We all have a lot commitments and budget our time down to the second, selfishly holding on to our free minutes like the last few M&M’s in a bag of trail mix. We wait to make sure we have the best option possible to fill that time slot, and often leave other people hanging in the process.

Sometimes, I think we honestly just don’t know our schedules off the top of our heads or aren’t sure if we are going to need the time to do school work. These are all valid reasons to allow for a little uncertainty, but I think we should start to think twice before going straight to the phrase, “that should work.”

For all the times I have said those words, I have also been on the receiving end of them. I know it is frustrating to feel unable to rely on others when you are the one coordinating plans. I know it makes me sad when friends who said a time “should work” end up backing out. I also know I feel much more valued as a friend if people give me either an honest “yes” or “no.” Yet, for some reason, I keep using this ambiguous phrase.

While most of us have no ill intent when saying the phrase “that should work,” it may have negative ripple effects. If we can’t commit to having dinner with a friend on a Thursday night, how are we going to commit to a career, a spouse or a child? We all eventually are going to have to make big commitments in our lives, and we should use these little commitments as opportunities to practice.

We can say “yes” instead of “that should work” because in the end, we should work. We should work a little harder to study the day before, or arrange our schedule to make time for the people or the activities we care about. We should put in a little extra effort to maintain our relationships, and not only take the easy or most convenient way out.

In the end, successful commitments are made when we think about the person we are committing to and not just what we are getting out of the commitment. When we are invited to do something next, let’s try to respond in a way which will make the other person feel valued. This way, when we show up to whatever we are invited to, they’ll know it is not just because we found nothing better to do, but because we carved out time to spend with them.

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