It’s 4:00 pm on Friday. The coffee shop crowd is approaching shift change. The afternoon workers trade out for post-work latte enthusiasts. Between tracks of the Avengers: End Game soundtrack blasting through my airpods, the coffee grinder is buzzing frantically.
Screaming towards a deadline one hour away, I need to remind a freelancer of the urgency. There’s no time to be casual.
“Just checking in on those final edits!”
Maybe it’s the Midwest-nice affliction in my soul. I’m a people-pleaser, and I often err on the side of empathy when asking for something. I prefer using honey over vinegar whenever possible.
I stopped before sending the email and looked at that line. “Just checking in.” This was not a fun pop-in to see if he wanted a Coke. This is very important. By adding the word “just”, the urgency is diminished; the weight of my words too. Delete. No more “just.”
There are so many ways to communicate these days. From email to text, Microsoft Teams to Slack. It’s no surprise that we’ve allowed casual phrasing to mix with professional terms.
Granted there are phrases we use primarily in email or text; “LOL let’s TB IRL!” Sometimes our written words reveal or insinuate more than our spoken ones do. Adding a period instead of an exclamation mark, or simply nothing at all.
The word “just” is the real villain here. It lessens nearly every word that follows it. When we minimize questions and statements, our entire message can change in tone. Worse yet, it can reflect back that the sender doesn’t have confidence in their own request, statement or feeling on a topic.
Just An Apology
When we use, ahem, the j-word in combination with something we need or a description of our work—it diminishes our perceived value. As if we’re apologizing for speaking up or asking for something before the other person even hears us.
I’ve written about Imposter Syndrome and discussed its ripple effects. This word is one of those smaller waves. When we have a hard time believing in our position or work, it manifests into passive insecurity. “I just need to get your eyes on this brief.” I need to get their eyes on it; no “just.”
Don’t apologize for doing your job. Don’t apologize for being organized or communicating needs. You’re not pretending to be a professional — you are a professional.
Just Another Task
When speaking to anyone who looks to you for direction, the word “just” can create unintended challenges and resentment.
Describing something needed like, “Just a quick revision” we are downplaying the complexity. Almost as if to say, “What you’re doing is easy, or at least that’s how I view it.” Giving the impression that something isn’t that important but is someone’s job builds a foundation of resentment one brick at a time.
An empathetic leader intercepts their words before they reach others in a destructive manner. Leave out the “justs” as much as possible.
Just One Final Thought
Non-verbal communication is part of our basic wiring as humans. It has been around for as long as we’ve been standing upright. As technology and communication evolve, we must reflect on how our words are interpreted.
While I press ⌘+F and search this draft for that j-word, I j̵u̵s̵t̵ want to leave you with a couple of final thoughts.
What we say matters, regardless of how the words reach people. Think about how you’re coming across to coworkers but also how “just” can affect your self-talk. Return value where it may have been accidentally lost.
Acronyms and emojis are everywhere. Communication is becoming more layered but that brings the massive potential for reaching others in effective new ways. Let’s not get lost in the fray and diminish the potential to become stronger together. Just saying.