It's "just" me

About 20 years ago, I was fortunate to have a very successful business leader take me on as a mentee. He saw something in me that I didn't see in myself at the time and was determined to help me realize my gifts. I will always be grateful for his willingness to teach me and provide me with much needed (often unsolicited)  feedback. Part of the feedback would occur after we had been in meetings together with other leaders. He would say that I had really good thoughts and unique insights that were valuable to the leaders, but that I needed to "stop using qualifying language."  I had no idea what that meant. Let me paraphrase what he told me ... "If you want to wield some power in a conversation, you cannot constantly minimize what you say.  Take the word "just", for example. Why do you put that word in a sentence? It's just my opinion.  Just minimizes your opinion ... it's not JUST your opinion, it's your opinion. I just wanted to share a thought. I just don't agree with what you are saying. Hi, it's just me."

Do you get his point?  Just minimizes anything that comes after it. Your opinion is worth something - putting the word just in front of it makes it sound a bit like you don't value it.  If you don't value your opinion, why should anyone else? I learned to get that word out of my vocabulary.

Here are a few other examples of things I would say that made me sound passive, uncertain, almost apologetic ...

I am kind of busy right now - could we possibly do this later?   KIND OF

I have a pretty strong opinion about that. PRETTY

I sort of see your point. SORT OF

I disagree with you a little bit . LITTLE BIT

Notice how much stronger these statements are ...

I am  busy right now - could we do this later?

I have a strong opinion about that.

I see your point.

I disagree.

Not every conversation you have likely requires you to show up as strong - I get that. For those times that you do want to sound as if you are confident and taking a stand and in control, consider what words you may be using to qualify, minimize, weaken or soften the message. It's a magical thing that occurs when you understand this and can begin to be intentional about your use of qualifying language.

I am asking you to notice when (or how much) you use the word "just" before a verb or a person's name.   How does the addition of the word "just" change the meaning of the sentence?  I look forward to reading your comments about what you are noticing.



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