Storytelling: Why Women use the word Just more than required

Samantha wanted to ask her colleague Matt something about the project they are working on. She walked up to him and said, “Can I just have 5 mins of your time?”

Mariam writes an email to her boss,

“Dear XYZ,

I am just checking when would you like me to have the next town hall.



“Just” has a high concentration in the choice of words women use to communicate. As I became aware of it, I started editing my emails and messages by deleting the word just. I was surprised that my writing was perfect without “just”! The use of the word was more a habit versus need.

But is it just habit or there is more to it?

 LinkedIn Influencer Ellen Petry Leanse’s article The one word you should strike from your vocabulary stat to sound more confident throws light on this common challenge for women.

 In the article Ellen makes a point that just is  a “permission” word, in a way — a warm-up to a request, an apology for interrupting, a shy knock on a door before asking “Can I get something I need from you?”

I agree with Ellen. Just is used as a permission word on certain occasions but not all occasions. When I wrestle with my thoughts and try to understand why I used the just word the reason for that is less about permission and more about a story I tell myself.

“I do not like to burden people and every time  I ask them for something, using the word  just makes me feel that I am not asking for anything substantial.” It is a small request. However, the question is, why do I need to feel like I am burdening someone?

In the case of Samantha asking her colleague Matt about the project, she’s not asking for 5 mins for her personal benefit but for the project’s benefit. Mariam writing to her boss about the town hall date is not a personal favor but a step towards fulfilling a business need.

For me, simply being aware of the problem with using the word just, as permission or creating a burden has helped me rectify the problem.

Next time you catch yourself writing or saying just,  stop and delete if you have written it, and say the sentence again if you are using it in oral communication. It will take a few messy times to get into the habit of not using the word just when not required.

Your communication just needs you to strike the word Just from your vocabulary when not required.

Stay Storied!

Book Update ( the new publication date )

If you are not new here you would know that my upcoming boom Strategic Storytelling published by The Hachette Book Group is launching in May this year.  We are planning a few events leading up to the book launch. Please sign up here if you would like to be the first to know.

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