The Word I’m Banning From My Vocabulary

This may seem weird, but it’s “just.” 

Let me explain…

The other day, my friend Rémy asked me to double check a work email she was sending out. I read it through and sent her feedback. “Looks perfect except for that first line, which reads like an apology.” It was true — Rémy was asking a higher-up something that was completely legitimate, but she had started the email with an apologetic explanation. When I read it, I caught it right away — it was clearly unnecessary, but I am completely guilty of this myself. In fact, I think I do it all the time.

After sending her feedback, Rémy immediately sent me this. “Words I’m trying to live by,” she said. I read it and LOVED it. I think it’s right on the money, too. Here are some excerpts:

I started paying attention, at work and beyond. It didn’t take long to sense something I hadn’t noticed before: women used “just” a lot more often than men. It was a hunch – I had no data. Yet even if it was selective listening, it seemed I was hearing “just” three to four times more frequently from women than from men. It hit me that there was something about the word I didn’t like. It was a “permission” word, in a way – a warm-up to a request, an apology for interrupting, a shy knock on a door before asking “Can I get something I need from you?”

I am all about respectful communication. Yet I began to notice that “just” wasn’t about being polite: it was a subtle message of subordination, of deference. Sometimes it was self-effacing. Sometimes even duplicitous. As I started really listening, I realized that striking it from a phrase almost always clarified and strengthened the message. And as I began to pay attention, I was shocked – believe me – at how often I used the word.

As a team, we started noticing when and how we used “just” and outing each other when we slipped. Over time, frequency diminished. And as it did we felt a change in our communication – even our confidence. We didn’t dilute our messages with a word that weakened them.

Since then, I’m making a conscious effort to not only send emails without apologizing, but also live life without feeling like I have to justify everything I do, especially if it’s not lady like, or quiet, or generous. And honestly — it’s so refreshing.

Have a great weekend, everybody! Stop apologizing : ) 

Irrelevant peony photo from Wit & Delight 

3 thoughts on “The Word I’m Banning From My Vocabulary

  1. This made me feel all warm-fuzzy. My only remark on this is that I’d change this sentence: “…but also just live life without feeling like I have to justify everything I do.” Silly Joy!

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