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The Dangers of Using "Just"

Executive Series: The Mindful Leader, by Jenny Heins

In the world of communication, every word carries weight. Among these, one seemingly innocent word – "just" – can have a more profound impact than we often realize, particularly when giving instructions. Let's dive into the nuances and potential dangers of using "just" in conversation with your teams.


At first glance, "just" seems like a harmless addition to any sentence. However, its implications can be far-reaching, especially in professional or instructional contexts. The use of "just" can unintentionally diminish the complexity of a task or undermine the capabilities of the person receiving the instructions.

  • The Belittling Effect

When someone says, "Just do X," it can come across as if the task is trivial and should be obvious. This can be particularly problematic in workplaces or educational settings where clear and respectful communication is crucial. It may make the recipient feel undervalued or that their challenges with the task are being dismissed.

  • Oversimplifying Tasks

"Just" can also oversimplify a task, suggesting that it requires minimal effort or skill. This can be misleading, especially for complex tasks that require detailed understanding and execution. It risks setting unrealistic expectations and can lead to frustration when the task proves more challenging than anticipated.

  • The Psychological Aspect

The psychology behind the word "just" reveals its subtle power to shape perceptions. It can create an imbalance in the communicator-recipient relationship, implying that the communicator has greater knowledge or authority. While this may not be the intent, it's crucial to be aware of how such nuances affect interpersonal dynamics.


To avoid the pitfalls of using "just," consider these alternatives:

- Be Specific: Instead of saying, "Just do X," be clear about the steps involved. For example, "To achieve X, you can start by doing Y."

- Show Empathy: Acknowledge the complexity or difficulty of the task. Phrasing like, "I understand this can be challenging..." can go a long way in showing empathy and respect.

- Encourage Questions: Invite the recipient to ask questions. Say, "Let me know if you need any help with this," to foster a more open and supportive communication line.

- Use Affirmative Language: Use language that empowers rather than diminishes. For instance, "You can accomplish X by doing Y," which focuses on the ability and action.

The word "just" might be small, but its impact on communication is significant. By being mindful of our word choice and the potential implications, we can foster a more respectful, clear, and empowering communication environment. Remember, effective communication is not just about what we say but how we say it.

  • DOWNLOAD: The Mindful Leader- Week 2 Reflections & Action Items


By Jenny Heins.

Executive Series

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