In a previous post, we looked at the benefits of using “and” instead of “but”. In line with this, it is also interesting to look at another little word we regularly use.
I have recently attempted to omit the word “just” from my vocabulary. It is not easy with this one. It’s just so easy to say “just”! However, in the interest of more powerful and effective communication, let’s look at how this word often does not serve us.
“Just” is used in a few unhelpful ways. Frequently, it is used in a passive-aggressive way. For example: “I was just making a comment!” minimises the fact that the other person has been left hurt or upset by something we said. We imply it was nothing. In so doing, we use “just” to avoid taking responsibility for our actions.
It is more powerful and honest to say, “Ok. I can see you didn’t like that last comment” or ask, “How did what I said come across to you just now?”
Oops….there’s that word again 🙂
Also, “just” can be used to minimise the importance or integrity of what you do. Such as when people say: “I’m just a housewife” or “I’m just a student”. You take your own legs out from underneath you. You hide yourself from the world when there is no need to.
A small example: As a counsellor I used to say, “Just take a slow deep breath” when clients closed their eyes for a moment to focus on their inner world. (As if it wasn’t really very important to breathe or relax!). When I simply say, “Take a slow deep breath”, it sounds stronger.
Omitting “just” can help to show leadership and confidence in what you are doing.
Even in trivial examples, you feel the difference between saying, “I’m just going to the shops” versus “I’m going to the shops”. Let’s try another: “I just got back” versus “I got back 5 minutes ago” also feels a little different.
The word “just” has a minimising effect and it is generally clearer, more specific, and more powerful when you leave it out. Although it is very habitual to say, and therefore tricky to avoid, give it a try and see how it feels.
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