I have been a professional person doing business things for half a second now and if there is one thing I’ve learned it is that this shit is hard. And weird.
The relationships I form at work in an office are completely different from any other relationship or job I have ever had. Somehow sitting at a desk all day doesn’t quite compare to being a teenager slinging pizza dough for eight hours straight in a blistering hot kitchen in the dead of summer. Huh.
And while I am a self-described communication expert (I wrote at least one million essays on the topic in my school days; plus it’s really easy to self-describe, see: I’m a self-described train conductor with a jaunty striped hat) I haven’t quite mastered the art of getting my own ideas across in the day-to-day.
I am generally pretty unsure of myself 100 per cent of the time in a lot of things that I do. Particularly the things that people pay me to do. I make myself pretty anxious overthinking every little thing that I say. I try to soften every sentence to make sure I don’t overstep or offend anyone, which is apparently a thing that a lot of women do! From J Lawr writing in Lenny Letter about equal pay in Hollywood and Sheryl Sandberg teaching us how to Lean In, there is no shortage of strong women putting these issues right up into the public consciousness. It is huge. It is amazing. And it stresses me out even more.
These huge ideas are so important. But they are also too big. If I think about every step and section of Lean In in everything I do and the importance of making sure I am doing it right I just get more anxious. It takes a lot of work to change your attitude in any aspect of your life, which is why I am taking it one tiny step at a time.
My first step is to change the way I communicate with my colleagues. I am making the conscious effort to take the word just out of my vocabulary. And so far, I at least feel like I am taking myself more seriously — whether or not my colleagues are.
When we’re not talking about actual justice, the word “just” has a lot of different uses and most of them are meant to make you sound more polite or to soften your words.
When I send an email to my boss saying “Just checking in to make sure those reports were okay,” I am showing my lack of confidence in my work. These days I am saying Let me know if you have any questions about those reports, and I am not only sounding more competent, I am making myself available as an authority on the subject. Which I am! I made those reports. I know what I am talking about.
See! I am more confident already!
When I tell colleagues that “I was just thinking…” I am discounting my opinion. There is nothing wrong with having an opinion and stating it out loud. If I am going to contribute to a conversation, I am going to do it with something I can either stand behind or learn from if someone can explain to me why it won’t work.
Like any good habit, I have noticed it creeping into my everyday life, too. Today I caught myself texting a friend Just on my way home from the grocery store. I immediately backspaced that just right out of there. I was super proud of making it to the grocery store today. I was carrying a lot of heavy bags (seriously, chocolate milk was on sale for 99 cents a litre. I can’t let a deal like that pass me by), I was texting and drinking a very large coffee. This was no small feat and there was no way in hell I was going to just-ify it.
Since I have started eliminating just I feel more confident expressing my ideas at work. I have started appreciating my day to day efforts more. And I am feeling like the badass bitch that queen J Lawr wants me to be.