Do we as women use the word “just” too often? How did we get into the habit of saying “just” in so many of our sentences, and do we even notice that we do it? A friend of mine brought an article to my attention yesterday – it’s an article written by ex-Google employee and LinkedIn Influencer Ellen Petry Leanse. The post was originally published on LinkedIn, but was reposted on Business Insider. You can read the full article here. In a nutshell, it proposes that we just need to stop saying “just”.
Ms. Leanse’s article described her observations of the word “just”. She hadn’t noticed it during her time at Google and other corporations she had worked at previously that were a pretty even gender mix; but when she joined a company that was predominantly female, she started noticing the trend.
Her point is that the word “just” is often used to shorten, or diminish, what women have to say. “I just need a word with you” … “I just need a few minutes” … “I just want to see what this would look like written slightly differently” – I do agree that it slightly undermines the strength of the request or statement.
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 astonished — believe me — at how often I used the word.
It’s mostly observational and not exactly a highly scientific study, however I do think it raises some interesting points about how we use the word. Even in my phone conversation with this particular friend yesterday, we caught ourselves several times using the word “just”, in a conversation about how we don’t really need to use it as much as we do. I recalled to her that I was once apart of a women’s prayer group that had so much power and spiritual gusto, but had noticed even then how many prayers were preceded by the word “just”. God, I just ask for you to watch over this situation” … “Lord, we just come before you to praise you” … “I just pray for the miracle of healing for my family member”. These are examples of what I was hearing. I remember wondering how as a society we had adopted that habit, and I always wanted to be a fly on the wall in the men’s prayer group to see if they used the word as much as we did.
At least we’re more mindful of it now!
I do find it interesting, now that I stop and think about it, and notice it more. I notice that the sentences I use it in would still make perfect sense without it, and frankly, would be stronger, more direct and clearer. Why would I need to say “I’m just wondering if you’ve made a decision on which hotel we’ll be staying at”? rather than “I’m wondering if you’ve made a decision on which hotel we’ll be staying at”? More words? More complicated? Or does it really matter? Maybe we’re
just being pedantic!
Take a few minutes and have a read of that article, then do a “just” count and see how many times you use the word unconsciously. It might surprise you!