Former Google Exec: Women Should Stop Using the Word “Just;” It Shows “Subordination”

In an article for Business Insider, former Google executive Ellen Petry Leanse says that the word “just” is a sign of weakness. She also says that women use it “three to four times” as much as men.

The piece, titled “Google and Apple alum says using this one word can damage your credibility,” begins with Leanse detailing her past and how she realize the pervasiveness of “just.”

“Google, and everywhere else I’d worked before, had a more traditional gender mix,” she explains, “I’d never really noted a high concentration of “just” before, so I thought it might be my imagination. But soon I knew my hunch was legit. “Just” just kept showing up way too frequently.”

But when Ms. Leanse started listening, “it didn’t take long to sense something I hadn’t noticed before: women used “just” a lot more often than men.”

While she admits that she “has no data,” she argues, “even if it was selective listening, it seemed I was hearing “just” three to four times more frequently from women than from men.”
But why would women use a specific word like “just” more than their male counterparts? Leanse believes it is a sign of submissiveness.

“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?”” she explains.

Further, women were using a “child” word, according to Leanse: “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.”

And using the word “just” just isn’t about being polite, she adds, writing, “Yet I began to notice that “just” wasn’t about being polite: it was a subtle message of subordination, of deference.”

Getting rid of the word “just,” Ms. Leanse concludes, can help a business prosper.


Founder and editor of the Social Memo

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  1. I just don't understand this. OK, will you just hear me out? I think "just" is just too flexible a word to just say that it's just "a permission word" or just "submissive". I mean, just pigeon-holing what's just such a versatile word is…well, it's just not just!