One month ago, an article came out by the Independent Journal Review, saying that former Google Exec, Ellen Petry Leanse, suggested that women omit the word “just” from their workplace vocabulary. She noticed that when it was being used in a sentence, such as, “I just wanted to check in on…”, it gave off a certain aura of needing permission for something, i.e. emitting a hint of submission.
I decided to try omitting this (as well as empty apologies) from my vocabulary for one month and funny enough, it works. I started with emails (as practice). I wrote a common work email, utilizing the semi-professional/casual tone that has become the norm in most companies today. When I reread it back, I deleted the word “just” anywhere I found it, and then re-read it again. The tone changed from weak and slightly defensive, to professional and to-the-point.
In the short month I’ve done this, I have found to get more tasks accomplished, as my messages come across as clear asks for what I need, and less about sounding as though I’m tip-toeing around issues.
The second step was conference calls. More often than not, we don’t realize the fillers we use in conversations, particularly when we’re on point to speak about something we need to deliver. I found that when I was conscious of my speech, and the vocabulary (and tone) I was using, I came across as more professional, on-point, and confident, because I wasn’t using some of these weaker words when I spoke. This, of course, radiated outwards to my peers. As a result, more work has gotten accomplished, and my confidence level has gone up.
Personal Life Spill-over
When I felt I had mastered my workplace vocabulary changes, I decided to keep on going with this experiment and try this out with my personal interactions. And sure enough, I found my interactions, both with networking and with personal friends, a lot more solid. It brings about a level of confidence that one should radiate, resulting in higher levels of respect, admiration, and willingness to help. Omitting that one little word can be the difference between an opportunity and a miss. It can be the difference between a solid connection and a distant acquaintance.
I encourage each of you to take the month challenge, omit words, such as “sorry” and “just”, and see what it does for both your professional and personal lives.