woman covering her mouth, misspoke

Two Little Overused, Careless Words

“Just be more careful and you’ll be fine.”

“Simply take these 300 files and organize them by importance.”

“Just don’t date anyone who is too aggressive.”

“Simply look through your 3,000 emails and discard those you don’t need.”

Sound familiar? It’s amazing how often we use the words “just” and “simply.” I suggest to you that these two words can be discounting, disempowering, and even destructive. When we put one of these in our sentences, especially when we are telling people something they should do, it’s as if we’re saying this is so easy and there’s no reason for you not to be able to do it immediately and well. These words can minimize how much effort it’s going to take to accomplish something. They can put pressure on someone, especially if someone in authority uses one of these when giving a directive.

How many of us have been told to “just stay calm” as if we have a magic switch that lets us reduce our anxiety? Or to simply get control of our emotions? How confusing it can be when children hear directives from parents that include one of these words. How often does it communicate to children that what a parent is expecting is easy to do when perhaps for the child it’s a daunting expectation? Is it possible that hearing these words might subtly reduce self-esteem?

A friend and I had a discussion about this which is what led to writing this blog. We laughed when we heard ourselves inadvertently use the word “just” in our conversation. I suspect over time it’s going to be annoying to realize how, without thinking, “just” and “simply” are a habit we have and use in our conversations.

Until we bring it to our consciousness, we use these words frequently, trying to be kind and minimize the effort that might be involved as a way to help ease the guilt we may have over making a certain request. We may even think it is a kind of encouragement. Whatever the underlying motivation is, taking the time to be more sensitive about our use of “just” or “simply” simply is a good idea— oops! 🙂

Invitation for Reflection

  1. Can you recall a conversation where somebody used “just” or “simply” when giving you a directive? If so, how did that made you feel? How might it have changed your feelings if the word was not used in their statement to you?
  2. Can you remember a conversation you had recently where you used “just” or “simply”? How possible is it that it put unfair pressure on that person to whom it was directed?
  3. Are you willing to take on the challenge to notice when you use these words and then to try to eliminate or at least reduce them in your conversations?