Abram Interstate Insurance Services, Inc., CMGA

Helping Independent Insurance Agents Since 1996

Is this one word weakening your message? Business Tips for Insurance Agents

Published on July 9, 2015

“I was just checking to see…”
I’ve recently noticed myself using this phrase at the start of e-mails, text messages and phone calls when I need something from someone. Just checking to see if you had completed XYZ yet? Just checking to see if we were still on. Just checking to see if you could just send over that thing you were supposed to send over.

It’s been in my mind for a while, and I wasn’t sure why it was bothering me that I communicated like that until the other day when I stumbled across this article by google and apple alum Ellen Petry Leanse the other day.

The article was titled “Using This One Word Can Damage Your Credibility.” I clicked on the link to read because, obviously, that’s a serious allegation. Was I using this word? Was I damaging my credibility?

I was.

The culprit? Just.

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She writes about how, as she started a new job where most of the employees were women, she thought she was noticing a pattern: They all used the word “just” as a softener in their language much more than she’d been aware of before. As she delved deeper, she did sense that women used the word more than men, but that men, as well, fell pray to this modifier word.

The reason we use it is simple enough. It makes our requests less harsh, we think. It softens blows and takes of an edge. But you know what else it does? It undermines direct communication skill. Leanse writes:

It hit me that there was something about the word I didn’t like. It was 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?”

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was a “child” word, to riff Transactional Analysis. As such it put the conversation partner into the “parent” position, granting them more authority and control. And that “just” didn’t make sense.

I am all about respectful communication. Yet I began to notice that “just” wasn’t about being polite: it was a subtle message of subordination, of deference. Sometimes it was self-effacing. Sometimes even duplicitous. As I started really listening, I realized that striking it from a phrase almost always clarified and strengthened the message.

Nine times out of 10, the word is not needed in the sentence, and removing it gives a cleaner, clearer message.

Want your communication skills to get better and become more clear? Start watching the ways you use the word “just” and start deleting it each time you write it. What we’ve been viewing as a softener, is actually a weakener, watering down and muddling our messages.

Read her full article HERE

Abram Interstate Insurance Services, Inc. is a California wholesale insurance broker (CMGA) that has licensing and expertise to place business in both admitted and non-admitted markets for personal lines insurance and commercial lines insurance in California and surrounding areas.

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