There are plenty of offensive words and phrases out there, but I’ll admit that nothing raises my hackles more than hearing "just" used in a sentence like this: "But it should be easy. It’s just…." I’m sure I’m not alone – hearing that four-letter word sets the alarm bells ringing in my head.
It’s amazing how such a small and seemingly insignificant word can say so much; it tells the listener that something is insignificant and trivial, it can carry with it an almost condescending tone, and it takes all the impact out of whatever comes after it. What's wrong with trying to soften the blow of something, you ask? Mightn’t this be a good thing? Well, no.
"It’ll just take a few moments." If you use "just" to estimate the amount of time something might take, I know that you probably don’t have a solid understanding of the topic. When people are unsure about how long something will take, they usually find a way to let "just" creep into their vocabulary; people who have a thorough understanding of how long something takes say how long it will take!
"It’s just swapping this image for that image." This is very similar to using "just" to give a time estimate. This says to me "I have no idea how to do this myself, so I’m going to err on the side of overly optimistic." And while you might think you’re being optimistic, it will probably come across as rather rude instead. If you don’t know what’s involved in doing something, don’t try to make it sound easier that it probably is. Tell me what you need, and I’ll tell what it takes to do it.
"All I need is just a slight modification to this bit." I said tell me what you need, but for goodness sake, leave the word "just" out of it! You need what you need – you can’t trick me by using the word "just". Does the thought of something overwhelm you to the point where you need to find some word to minimize the impact to make yourself feel better? It’s not going to fool anybody; it is what it is. Accept it, make friends with it.
"I was just thinking…" Do you want someone to immediately tune you out? So far, most of these examples have been in reference to what other people do, but it’s not OK to diminish your own thoughts or ideas either! If you believe in yourself and your contributions, don’t let that nasty little word slip in there.
I hope next time you talk to someone about something you need or an idea you want to contribute, that you’ll do a little self-editing before attempting to qualify any of your statements with a "just". Trust in the other person’s expertise and trust in your own contributions. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.
I'm a graphic + web designer/developer and closet airbrush artist (the 80s called and I answered). I'm passionate about sustainability and community, and I'm a big fan of my hometown, Pasadena, California.Follow @bethkuchar