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The four-letter word: A simple tweak reaps surprising results

“Just.” It seems like a simple word, a nice adverb to qualify our actions. It’s such a wallflower in the scope of language that we probably don’t realize how often it slips from our lips. However, perhaps we should pay attention to this four-letter word. Doing so could transform our interactions with ourselves and others for the better.

The word “just” is like a bland herb in the back of the kitchen cabinet. People wouldn’t consider categorizing it as verbal poison. And yet that’s exactly what it is.

Think about the last time you heard “just” used in everyday speech. Perhaps one of these sounds familiar:

* It’s just one more bite. After all, one bite won’t kill me.

* I was just going to do my chores after this.

* We were just going to watch a little TV.

* We were just going to sleep in a bit.

* I was just kidding.

* I just meant ____.

* I just forgot.

Did you notice the pattern? The above are all excuses told to others or to ourselves.

When “just” seeps into your dialogue, beware. People hide behind this seemingly harmless word, using it to shield their true intentions from others’ scrutiny. Was the important task really on your mind? Was your intention really to complete that chore after the fun activity? Or did the attractiveness of the fun dwarf the necessity of the chore, even to the point of erasing the undesirable job from your train of thought?

If someone asks about your disregarded responsibility, you certainly can’t tell them the truth, can you? To do so would be to lessen the other person’s estimation of you. So you slip “just” into your answer, as if the word could strengthen your reasoning. The trouble is, such a strategy can backfire, making the other person doubt you.

This poison can also prevent you from acknowledging the real picture. It can keep you from telling yourself the truth about yourself. For instance, are you surfing the Internet because you sincerely want a break, or are you bored with the task at hand? Why are you reaching for that snack that you eat too much of? Are you hungry, or are you worried about failing? Is the thing you’re facing overwhelming? Avoidance doesn’t solve problems, it simply delays the inevitable.

I challenge you to eliminate the word “just” from your conversations—including your own self-talk—for a day. Or two or three or seven. Take it a step further: Each time you’re tempted to include “just” in your speech, examine why you want to slip this word into a sentence. Do you feel like it will just ify what you are going to say? Will it give your reasoning more credence? Perhaps your reasoning is poor if you think it needs to be propped up.

Consider your words carefully. Be honest with yourself, and with others. The result will lead to a greater self-awareness and healthier relationships.


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