Don’t should at me!

It irritates me when someone tells me that I should do something. It elicits an instant reaction of “no!” from me. If the same person were to make the same suggestion, but start it with “could you do this?” I would be far more willing to listen to the suggestion. I would even consider doing the thing.

But, why? Why such a strong negative reaction to being told what I should do? It’s because I’ve spent a good part of my life hearing people tell me what I should be doing, instead of asking me whether I could do something. It still happens all the time.

It happens a lot when we talk about autistic rights. People who are not autistic decide that they will offer their insight and tell us what we should be doing instead. Often, this comes in the form of tone policing. People tell us that we should make our messages more palatable by being more polite. They don’t stop to think that we’re angry for a reason. Fighting against oppression is frustrating and anger-inducing. People tell us that more people would listen if we were nicer. It’s quite possible that those people aren’t interested in listening regardless of how nice we are about our message.

On top of that, telling me that I should do something when it isn’t actually within my ability to do it makes me feel like I am less of a person. Sometimes, I don’t have the spoons necessary to be “nice” about what I have to say. Sometimes, I’m angry when I have to say something because that something is a thing that is anger inducing. Telling me that I should do something without asking why I haven’t done the thing tells me that that person doesn’t value my judgement.

So, don’t tell me that I should do a thing because I actually can’t reasonably listen to what comes after should as my brain just shouts “no!”. Instead, ask me whether I can. I will listen to that, and I will respond to that, but I cannot and will not respond to should.