I’d like you to try a little experiment….

For one day, try monitoring the way you use the word “just” – keeping a tally throughout the day of when and how you use it.

There’s the version of “just” that’s an adjective – describing a person as “morally right and fair”… “The Vice-President of Marketing was just in her decision to promote the manager with the most experience.”

Then there’s the use of “just” as an adverb. For instance, it can mean “exactly”…“That’s just what I need”; or refer to the recent past …“I just sent the report to headquarters.” It can also mean, “by a narrow margin”… “I just missed the bus.” There’s also the version that means “only” or “merely”… “She was just an amateur skater.”

However, the “just” I want you to be on the lookout for is the adverb that sneaks into our conversations with the stealth of pesky mosquitos through the screen door. If we were diagramming sentences, I would call this form of just the ‘minimizer’. When you kick off a sentence with it when writing an email, leaving a voicemail, or stopping by the boss’s office to confirm a meeting, it basically minimizes whatever words come after it. It’s the “Don’t-want-to-take-up-your-time”/ “This-really-isn’t-that-important” variety of the word. For example, “Just wanted to make sure you got the message about the meeting.” Or “Just wondering if we can find a time to talk.”

It may be so automatic for you to use “just” in this way that you’ve never even thought about it until now!

I’ve certainly used this “don’t-mind-me” version of “just” in the past, but now I’m vigilant – making it a point to check myself in conversations, emails and other communication to make sure those minimizing “justs” don’t pop up.

I hope you’ll give the just monitoring experiment a go, and see how you fare. How many times in a day do you feel the need to use this minimizing version of “just”?

I think you’ll find that it’s a fairly simple ad-just-ment to keep the “justs” at bay. Keeping things “just”-free will make your communication more powerful – which can, in turn, help you to feel a lot more empowered.