Just Don't Be Passive Aggressive

by Melanie, on 16 Nov 2021

Sometimes, when a piece of work needs to get done or a change is needed, I've found myself bristling more than usual. As a self-aware person, I watch out for things that seem to be problematic. It often isn't the request itself, it's the wording that's been chosen.

I discovered that someone adding the word "just" into their request made me feel discouraged and under appreciated. 

This took me a while to figure out. But once I did, I started to notice it more and more.

Some people make big asks and, rather than asking directly for what they need or want, they try to soften the blow by adding "just."

A small, innocuous word, right?

Sure - but it's one that carries a punch that can be hard to detect.

It's found in questions like "could you just change this workflow?", "could you just figure out why our tracking code isn't working?", and "could we just meet for ten minutes?"

I realized that 99% of the time, when somebody adds that word to a request, it demeans how complex the task actually is.

"Just" because you add the word does not make the job-at-hand any easier and it comes across as not valuing the skill or expertise that the work demands.

However, I don't want to be a hypocrite. Once I noticed that word grating on me, I spotted it in my own writing, too!

I tend to use it when giving feedback - especially when I don't want to come across as harsh. So, I've begun deleting it as often as possible from my writing. The hardest place for me to catch it is on Slack!

In most cases, no adverb is the best adverb.

Occasionally, "just" is the perfect word for what we want to communicate - but only occasionally!

I believe in being intentional about our communication. Please join me in protecting one another from the injustice of *just* one word.


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