Language is meant to help us humans communicate, but sometimes even with our best efforts, we mess up.

Years ago, I took my car to a local service station. My oil light was on, and even I knew what that meant: I was in trouble. The service guy lifted the car up, unscrewed the cap, and . . . black tarry stuff fell out of the car.

He had a horrified look on his face. 

He said: “Ma’am! Look at this! Don’t you know you should have brought your car in months ago? You should have followed the schedule! You could have ruined your engine!”

 “Shoulding” all over me, he was.

Was he wrong? No. Not about my having waited way too long to get the oil changed, or having acted stupidly.

He was right, but I never went back there.

Why? Because I felt shamed. To keep reminding someone of what she should have / could have done is pointless and hurtful.

Two simple words  -- next time -- can help when we’re trying to correct a behavior. We can’t change the past; we can only create a different future. And the more we can focus on the future – and use these two little words – the better our interactions will be.

Next time allows for change in the future and takes away embarrassment and shame.

What could the service guy have said? “Ma’am, the next time you receive a reminder about your oil change, please bring in your car right away so we can keep it running right. It will be better for the car and safer for you.”

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