My friend constantly says “I’ll be successful with my startup soon, I just have to get funding.” Or: “I would just like to say I’m great, just feeling sad.” In both of these sentences, there is unintentional irony. I’ve become sensitive to the word ‘just’ as a conversational filler, a minimization of importance, and sometimes even a way to turn one’s self into a martyr.
The word ‘just’ is a funny little word. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as an adjective: agreeing with what is considered morally right or good
: treating people in a way that is considered morally right
: reasonable or proper
and as an adverb: to an exact degree or in an exact manner
: very recently
: at this or that exact moment or time
I’ve been wondering what makes people use ‘just’ so much. Maybe people tend to minimize the hardest things they have to do so those tasks are not so overwhelming. Like: I’ve just got to make my first million and then I’ll be satisfied. Or: When I just meet the right woman, everything will fall into place. If only acquiring wealth was that simple for most people or finding The One happened so fast, we would not have near the amount of agita. And I’d be out of business!
What if people use ‘just’ to insert drama into their language? “OMG, I’ve been meaning to call you back but I’ve just been so busy.” In this way, ‘just’ helps us martyrize ourselves and expand our self-importance. It shows urgency and timeliness all at once.
My business is that I help my clients talk through and make a plan for all of the issues they’re ‘”just trying to figure out.” When my clients (and friends) talk about important matters and add the word ‘just’, they are effectively undermining themselves. I like to ask them what they really mean, and then offer feedback on how they come across. Often, this small filler word sounds weak and sabotages their efforts to present themselves with decisiveness and confidence.
By using the word ‘just,’ I hear people reducing their own credibility to nothing! Now that you’re reading this, you’ll likely start noticing how many times you’ve heard otherwise strong, successful women and men communicate this way! Maybe you’re guilty of using minimizing language also.
It strikes me that using the word ‘just’ so frequently is another way to be apologetic. This is one matter with which I’m all too familiar. I’ve spent decades apologizing for the tiniest things like expressing my (basic) needs and asking permission for the bare minimum. This communication style puts me in a position of inferiority, and I’m basically apologizing for my basic existence. I’m done with this style of communication! This awareness has given me an opportunity to stop asking for favors and instead state what I need. I’m tired of perceiving myself in the smaller role, and instead wish to see myself on the same level as everyone else. I don’t want to “take just a second of your time;” but need your full attention to communicate what’s on my mind. My language, and YOUR language, doesn’t need to be shrunk into Lego-sized pieces ready for a game of Tetris. Our language can be bold and strong, without fillers like ‘just.’
Having my words and actions misaligned is confusing in communicating with everyone in my sphere. If I’m teaching my clients to stop (or at the very least, be aware of their words, meanings, and intentions), I have to do the same. I’m making a point to stop apologizing for myself with itty bitty words like ‘just’ and committing to saying what’s real. I also don’t need to sensationalize my life with unnecessary over-dramatization of the facts. It starts here, with my own language as a model for clear communication and honesty.
To learn more about me and working with me, please visit Coaching By Nina Rubin.
Photo from hardcorecloser.com