Flattened by Overuse, Part 2

When last I wrote about overusing the word “love,” I didn’t plan any followup post. But some of the discussion has reminded me of another overused word:


You hear it a lot. F’r instance,

“I just think we should …”

“Just checking to see …”

Ellen Leanse wrote about this in 2015. Often we (especially women?) use the word “just” as an unnecessary apology. Apologizing for every opinion or statement not only flattens the impact of your thoughts. It also undermines you, the speaker.

I’m inclined to agree. If your speech habits make everything you say come across as hesitant, apologetic, uncertain… why should your colleagues have confidence in your ideas?

Ms. Leanse got some blowback, though. A couple of months later, Shane Ferro offered a rebuttal in Business Insider. Ferro points out it’s a bad idea to stress out about trying to eliminate any word from your vocabulary.

For one thing, a workplace ban on specific words like “just” sets up a judgmental culture. If you get busted for saying “I just need…” you end up apologizing for apologizing.

Talk about undermining yourself!

She has a point. Besides, the word has other uses. It can mean “simply” (This dessert calls for just three ingredients) or “exactly” (He has just enough money for dinner).

I find the discussion interesting. The differing points of view raise the question: Can you really predict how your speech will be perceived by your audience?

Giving some thought to how you express yourself seems like a good idea. With a bit of planning, you can make requests or share opinions and ideas without sounding either arrogant or apologetic.

Besides, any word you use from sheer habit probably doesn’t say what you actually mean.

Your turn: Do you police your speech for self-undermining phrases? Has anyone ever told you you’re too tentative, or too abrasive/bossy? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the “Leave a Reply” box below.

Thanks for reading,

About Jan C. Johnson

Welcome! If you like food, reading, laughing over life's little disasters, and maybe thinking about the bigger things of life, you have come to the right place. Besides blogging, I write humorous fiction, though real life tends to leave fictional humor in the shade. But I'm not a total goofball. No, really. I'm also working on a biography project. I live in North Texas with my husband, Brent. We enjoy bicycling, Mexican food, and traveling to visit our kids and grandkids.
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