The specific words we use when we communicate can reveal volumes about who we are as people. With technology rapidly changing the dialect of our language (so to speak) things are quickly morphing when it comes to our communication style.
Women often express difficulty being heard or deeply understood, no matter the technology. Of course, over a text, it’s impossible to know for sure what kind of tone you or another person are intending to use. Which is why communicating in a direct way is not only effective but vital for ensuring that we’re being heard and that no one’s tone or intention is being warped.
This is especially crucial in professional environments. For many women, the workplace can already be a place where they don’t feel completely appreciated (hello, wage gap) or it can be difficult to be heard over the voices of men.
I noticed this in my own life recently, when looking over an email that I was sending to someone for professional purposes. One word kept repeating itself over and over. And it’s probably not a word that you’d be able to guess.
This word repeatedly made my communication seem apologetic, small, and frail. It made my requests less powerful, my needs less important, and my expectations as a fellow professional seem minimal.
That word? Just.
Weird, right? It’s a seemingly harmless word that we probably use a million times a day without even noticing. But I really believe that eliminating this word harnesses a ton of power. Let’s look at an example.
Let’s say a coworker forgot about an important phone call that you two were supposed to hop on together. You’re waiting for 5, 10, 20 minutes and he (or she) is a total no-show. You’re annoyed and frustrated that you were on top of your game and apparently your coworker didn’t have the same priority as you for this task. So you shoot them an email.
“Hey [Name], I’m just following up on that phone call that we were supposed to have at 2:00 today. Let’s reschedule soon.”
“Hey [Name], I’m following up on that phone call that we were supposed to have at 2:00 today. Let’s reschedule soon.”
They sound different, right? The first one sounds timid and nearly apologetic. You’re basically saying, “Hey there, I’m just doing my job. Sorry. But I have to.”
The word “just” is almost a way to apologize for doing what we have to (and want to) do.
The second one sounds expectant and is holding your coworker accountable. And there is nothing wrong with that! It isn’t rude or too forward or nasty – it’s just accountability.
For me, removing this word from my vocabulary (and it’s something I’m still working on in my relationships outside of the office) took time. It felt scary. I’d be hesitating to hit ‘send’, thinking, “But I sound so RUDE! They won’t want to communicate with me if I send this!” But then I always brought myself back, remembering that I don’t need to apologize for doing my job or for expecting others to do the same.
Play around with getting rid of the word ‘just’. See how it changes the tone of your language – written and verbal. Notice if it feels scary – that’s okay! It’s an interesting way to let ourselves feel more empowered with our words and to make sure that we’re being heard in every area of our lives.
Have you tried removing this word from your vocabulary? What do you feel has changed? I’d love to hear this or any other a-ha’s or insights in the comments below!