How To Stop Using "Just"

I believe people should be free to use words but I do wonder about words that make us feel inadequate. In this particular post, I’m referring to the word “Just”.

In the past, we noticed on our team that the word “Just” seemed to be used and over used by some stakeholders. It got to the point where these stakeholders then began to believe the simplicity attached to the word “Just”. I even submitted a 99 Second Talk to the Dojo about how we tried to remove it (for added context). @mb1 summed my feelings up quite well in a recent tweet:

I read a blog a long time ago The 4-letter-word word that makes my blood boil and more recently, on the same site, The ‘Just’ Jar.

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?

I never want to be rude to someone when they genuinely don’t know how it makes me feel but I would like to have a discussion about how we can approach bringing this up.


Yes!! I feel the same way about theword “just”!
And another phrase that testers need to cut out is “I think”… Have some confidence when you talk about testing. When people say “I think” all the time, it makes it look like they are unsure about their statements / responses, and it certainly feels like these words are being overused needlessly too.


For the overuse of “I think” is that not testers just using safety language, as talked about in RST by @mb1, to avoid people reading too much into statements that are being made?

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I’ve been trying to stop using “just” as described for literally about five years… Don’t know that I’m any further forward with it, to be honest.

In the meantime, I’ve also developed a bad habit of saying, “it’s my understanding that…” when I actually mean, “I know this is how it is”. It creates the same situation Dan described when saying, “I think,” all the time. I started saying it as a way to open up conversations without necessarily trying to “convince” others or when there isn’t necessarily a “right” answer, but now I also say it when I’m trying to avoid confrontation or being pushy :frowning:


There are also some, like Cassandra, who use these fillers as a way of opening conversations- I know I have a few of these fillers in my own vocabulary at times. I know I tend to be fairly soft-spoken because I prefer to avoid conflict, or the appearance of creating conflict.

I’ve found that many people find silence discomforting, and feel the need to fill it. They tend to use filler words such as “I think” or “just” or “like” in order to say something while giving themselves time to think about what they actually want to say, or to speak more words while not really saying anything additionally useful.

The people that I specifically don’t like are the ones who feel the need to overpower anything anyone else says through sheer volume of words spoken, as if they can silence others by simply speaking over the top of the conversation. These people tend to use a lot of fluff to add volume (both in the sense of loudness and in the sense of amount of words) to a simple sentence, so that they win a conversation by simply drowning out the other party. They are also the ones who either belittle others’ work or words by making them seem trivial (“just”)- I find them to be very shallow people with little regard for others.

What I’m saying is that it depends on the context and the person using the words. I will try to steer the conversation in such a way that “just” is ironed out and the facts are exposed, and consider “I think” or “I suppose”" as a sort of ice-breaker that starts others thinking about what I said, rather than automatically saying no to an idea.


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.