Just say what you really mean. (Yes, you know what I did just there.)
I’m wondering if you’ve ever had to have the conversation with someone on your team along the lines of “Do you know how your usage of the word ‘just’ makes me feel in this context”? Or is it a conversation you feel you need to have but aren’t sure how to best approach it?
First, you don’t have to have that conversation. You might want to have that conversation, and that’s fine. As a human being, and as an adult, you get to choose whether you have that conversation, and if it’s worth it to you, choosing to have it is probably a good idea.
If you want to have that conversation and decide to go about it, there’s something else that might be important to consider as you lay out the problem for the other person: no one else makes you feel anything. People say things or do things, and you take them in, interpret them, and feel something about them. The other person is not making you feel one way or another; your feelings are something that’s happening inside you. This is not to say that your feelings are wrong, or meaningless, or trivial; far from it. Your feelings are utterly important, and they can’t be ignored. The good news is that you can choose how you react to them, and you can do so in a way that doesn’t put the other person on the back foot.
Try saying this: “When you say ‘just’, I thank and feel this,” and then lay out what you think and feel.
For example: if “We’ll just fix a couple of bugs and run the automated checks; that will be enough,” say “When you said ‘just’, I felt alarmed, because it seems to that there are lots of problems that might get by those checks. I think it would be a good idea for us to be cautious about that.”
If someone says, “Just make sure it’s done by 5:00pm”, try saying “When you said ‘just’, I felt a little unnerved. I’ve got a lot of other things that you’ve asked me to do, I’m not sure what the priorities for them are, and I’m not sure that I know enough to get the job done to the standard you want. Plus I’ve got to pick up my daughter at the day care. So things are a little more complicated for me than they might seem to you.”
Of if someone says, “Just look it up in the documentation,” try saying “When you said ‘just’, I felt dismissed. I have already tried to look it up in the documentation, and my experience is that the documentation is often incomplete or self-contradictory or opaque. Maybe you’ve had that experience too. But in any case, I already feel shy about coming to you for help, and then when I feel dismissed, I feel bad. That’s not you making me feel bad, but I feel bad anyway. So could I get some help with that from you? Could you do me the favour of not saying ‘just’ if I seem perplexed or confused?”
In these ways, you’re taking responsibility for managing your feelings and your reactions to them, and you’re helping the other person to see their role in that.
It’s considerably harder to do this in real life, in the heat of the moment, than it is here. Nonetheless, when I can pause and remember to do use this approach, it tends to be very productive. And if someone reacts badly in the moment, that’s information.