Those of you that have read a lot of my articles know I love to give a different perspective anytime there is an issue based on something women do differently from men and there is the assumption that what women do is wrong or inferior. Last week I was going through old emails from my daughter and I came across and article she sent me on how much women use the word “just.”
The article caught my attention because not long ago while editing my book, I tuned in to just how many times I use the word “just” in my writing. It has to be one of my favorite words!
While editing I just deleted the word “just” because it just wasn’t needed – it is superfluous. But I know why I insert the word “just” into my writing.
According to the woman who wrote the article, women use “just” as a permission word. As such, it casts women into the child position and the person we are speaking to into the parent position. This relationship caused by the word “just” ruins our credibility. For example:
“I just want to talk to you about…”
“If I can just get an answer on…”
“I am just seeing how you are doing on…”
I use these phrases all the time at work but I usually preface them with “Hey, you got a minute? I just want to discuss…“
I use the word “just” to establish a limitation or set boundaries. In my writing I use it to limit my thoughts and prevent myself from going off on tangents. It helps me remain focused. Instead of using the word “just” I could just say what I am really thinking:
“Hey, you got a minute? I’ve got a lot on my mind and there are 3 things we need to talk about. But I’m not ready to discuss all of them yet and also I don’t have enough time right now. So, I want to discuss this 1 topic.”
Saying “just” is just easier.
I looked up the word “just” in the dictionary and some of the definitions are: within a brief preceding time; exactly or precisely; only or merely; actually. The dictionary didn’t make it sound like a permission word.
Using the examples above, instead of using the word “just” we could substitute in the word “only.”
“I only want to talk to you about…”
“If I can only get an answer on…”
“I am only seeing how you are doing on…”
Does using “only” convey a limitation or boundaries better? Or are we still asking permission?
Obviously tone will depict whether we are using “just” as a permission word. If a woman is asking a question and sounds all mousey, then there is something wrong. But all of these examples are examples of interrupting someone – and in these examples it sounds like we are interrupting our boss. I however, use the same “just phrase” if I am talking to a boss, a peer or direct report.
When we interrupt someone, we don’t know what they are working on or how important it is. When we use “just” we are conveying a limitation or boundaries so they can gauge how much time we will need. This allows them to determine if they have time for us. That is being respectful and having some manners.
Suppose instead of using the word “just” we said:
“Excuse me, do you have time to talk about…?”
“Excuse me, do you have an answer for me on…?”
“Excuse me, I want to see how you are doing on…?”
If a woman said that would she still be asking permission? Or is it just being polite? Just because women show deference to someone else it doesn’t mean we are shy, timid, insecure or that there is something wrong with us. It doesn’t mean we see ourselves as subordinate or as a child. We just might be using some manners and showing some respect for someone else. There is nothing wrong with that.
One more thing.
Do you know what I just hate? I just hate it when a man just comes walking into my office and just starts talking to me about something and expects me to just drop what I am doing and pay attention to him and whatever it is he wants to talk about. I just find that rude.
Empowered Women Have Manners.