Let me just say: if I had asked you what the most offensive four-letter word is — with “u” as a second letter — you might think of others that top the list. (Hint: it’s not “busy” and doesn’t start with “f.”)
Status update: the word “just” should be banished from your vocab. Too many of us use this seemingly harmless word in emails, in conversations, and even in our minds.
To be clear, there are still two instances where “just” is justified:
Just do it.
Just desserts (as in, “I am only eating desserts”).
You might feel that using “just” all the time is NBD, but once you realize how it undermines you when speaking and when rationalizing with yourself, you will cut it out — stat.
Here are the 3 scenarios where we tend to use “just” -- and not doing ourselves any justice at all.
“Hi! I’m just following up on my email from last week….”
“Hi! I’m just emailing to confirm our meeting next week.”
Now consider how much more assertive you would sound if you deleted “just” altogether and it went more like this:
“Hi! I’m following up on my email from last week….”
“Hi! I’m emailing you to confirm our meeting next week.”
The truth is, when we add the word “just” it’s usually innocent and serves as filler to make an email flow better.
But when we take a closer look, it sounds apologetic. It reads like this: “I don’t mean to bother you, I’m really just contacting you again to [follow up / confirm / check in].
Tara Mohr, a career and personal growth coach who teaches women worldwide how to step into their power, covers this in her book, Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create & Lead. According to Mohr, women are “playing small,” so she shares the tools she’s used to help women take big steps forward in their lives and careers.
Mohr dedicates a chapter to “Communicating with Power,” and the words women tend to use that undermine them. These words are “the little things we do in our speech and writing that diminish our impact.” After all, Mohr reminds us that our words are our opportunity -- and using “just” is a ‘shrinker’ because it lessens the power of what we have to say.”
Because we want to be apologetic for asserting ourselves, we lean on words like “just” to ensure we don’t sound aggressive or harsh. This is no way to lean in, ladies.
So next time you’re drafting an email, strike out the word “just.” It will make you sound confident, strong and assertive. Just. Like. That.
IN MEETINGS & CONVERSATIONS WITH COWORKERS/CLIENTS
"I just want to explain…”
“I just think…”
“I just want to make sure I understand your point of view here..."
Why are we asking for permission to validate our understanding of others’ P.O.V.? Or worse, asking for permission to explain our own stance?
The “I just want” and “I just think” needs to stop right here, right now. To be fair, these are likely harder to control, because speaking with confidence and assertion can be more challenging in person. Email and social media allow for the kind of anonymity that make it easier to speak your mind since you’re not face-to-face -- whereas you might feel more insecure or feel the need to please in a meeting or client call.
So here is your mental reminder to kick “just” to the curb. If you’re worried about coming off too harsh, Mohr recommends remaining kind and diplomatic with your tone of voice, choice of words and body language.
You can slay those meetings without using “just”!
(*Says to self)
"I will let the client get away with it, just this once."
"I will say yes, just this time..."
"I will just get over this crazy period, and will then get myself more organized."
Whatever kind of boss you are, the excuses need to stop. In this scenario, “just” is the word that’s hindering your progress.
By allowing yourself to take on a project for less than your usual rate, accepting to be treated disrespectfully, or not pushing back on requests, you are setting yourself up for failure.
Show your clients that you have limits and that it’s not okay for them to [insert shady verb here] you over.
When you’re “just-ing” all over yourself, it becomes an excuse to put things off -- like taking control of your life and saying no.
The “just” is a Band-Aid solution. It makes you feel good in the moment and makes you feel like you’ve got this. Because it’s just one all-nighter. It’s just one week of putting off the gym to make it through this crazy period. It’s just one week of being tied to your laptop and not talking to family or friends. And it’s just a month of asking yourself, “How did I accept to take on this project -- for this deadline -- for zero pay?”
But in reality, it’s all a distraction -- and it’s preventing you from moving forward.
JUST THE FACTS
For a small word, “just” can cause some real damage -- to your reputation and your reality. Banish this word from your repertoire altogether and be fair to yourself.
Karin Eldor is a coffee-addicted copywriter, with a long-time love for all things pop culture, fashion and tech. Ever since she got her first issues of YM (remember that one?) and Seventeen in the mail, she was hooked on the world of editorial content. After earning her Communications degree, she spent 6 years honing her craft as a Senior Editor for AskMen.com. More recently, Karin enjoyed gramming and strategizing as Social Media Manager at ALDO. Today, she is Chief Content Writer at 818 Agency and a social media consultant.
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