It was one of the best days of our lives. That day our little Em was born. She was our one. Life immediately became about the three of us. We were complete, a tight working unit.
It took about a week for the questions to start: “Is this your only child?” “Are you just having one?”
We found ourselves answering: “Yes, only one; we’re just having one.” Then, it hit me… We don’t only have one; we’re not just having one. We have one child. We’re complete. Our little girl isn’t a just or an only. She’s Em and we’re a family!
That was 10 years ago. Since then I would have had hundreds of conversations with people about the importance of not using the words ‘just’ or ‘only’ to describe who you are, what you have or where you’re going in life.
Minimising language implies uncertainty and weakens your message
It’s not only about family but your business, your potential at work, the future you see for yourself. Even optometrists I’ve spoken with have said, after being introduced and asked who and/or where they work, that they’re “only an optometrist working at xyz practice”.
You’re an optometrist giving sight to people who have difficulty seeing. You’re saving sight. You’re enriching people’s lives. And, you’re ‘only’ an optom? Sorry. Nup.
Inserting the word “just” or “only” diminishes every other word in the sentence… and don’t get me started on “sorry”, as in “Sorry, I just want to say that I only…”
Minimising language implies uncertainty and weakens your message. Consider this example: “I’d just like to do an OCT scan now”. “Just” an OCT scan? Nothing too important then. It will cost extra so maybe I’ll pass. But remove that one word to say: “I would like to do an OCT scan now.” Suddenly, my health professional is saying “I want this done” and I’m going to start taking note.
Former Google executive Ellen Petry Leanse started a social media firestorm last year when she wrote an article complaining that the word “just” was used too frequently, particularly by women, suggesting a moratorium on the “J word”.
“We started noticing when and how we used just and outing each other when we slipped. Over time, frequency diminished. And as it did we felt a change in our communication — even our confidence. We didn’t dilute our messages with a word that weakened them. It was subtle, but small changes can spark big differences. I believe it helped strengthen our conviction, better reflecting the decisiveness, preparedness, and impact that reflected our brand.”
No-one doubts that the ability to communicate effectively and confidently has a huge impact on the way others see us – and the way others see us, in turn, has a massive impact on our ability to advance our careers; build our practice; “do life” in general.
So take the challenge. Take note of how many times you use the words “just” and “only”. Take them out of your sentences.
I guarantee you’ll notice a change – certainly in the clarity of your message, but also in the way others respond… and even in the way you think of yourself.