If you just can't shake the tendency to avoid soft words like "just," then Google Chrome has a new extension to help.
Designed by Tami Reiss, CEO of Cyrus Innovation, the email app calls attention to words and phrases like "just," "sorry," and "I think." The Gmail plug-in helps writers, especially women, curb the tendency to undermine themselves in written communication.
Reiss and her team created Just Not Sorry, a plug-in that underlines undermining phrasing as if it were misspelled. Once a user double checks why a word or phrase has been underlined, they can hover over it and receive a "quick education hint," Reiss wrote on Medium.
Reiss explained the different hints users receive, saying, "We used content from Tara Sophia Mohr who calls these words 'Shrinkers;' Lydia Dishman who explains how these phrases are useless; Sylvia Ann Hewlett who emphasizes that women need to stop apologizing; and Ian Tang who shows us how 'thank you' is more effective than sorry."
If a writer types "just," Mohr's quote, "'Just’ demeans what you have to say. ‘Just’ shrinks your power," appears.
The team plans to add more quotes, but in the meantime Reiss told NTRSCTN they open-sourced the code so others could add trigger words and quotes.
Explaining why she designed the app in the first place, Reiss described a meeting she attended where business women softened their language to make their presence more amenable.
"We had all inadvertently fallen prey to a cultural communication pattern that undermined our ideas," she said. "As entrepreneurial women, we run businesses and lead teams — why aren’t we writing with the confidence of their positions?"
Whether consciously or not, soft language makes communication less effective. Reiss explained, "When someone uses one of these qualifiers, it minimizes others' confidence in their ideas. Whether you’re persuading an investor to provide funding, announcing a change in direction to your colleagues, or promoting your services to a client, you are building their confidence in you."
Beta tests revealed that when people relied on Just Not Sorry to catch soft language, their emails saw a sharp decline in using those types of words.
Beyond the app, Reiss and her team launched JustNotSorry.com, a site encouraging 10,000 women to pledge against using undermining language in their communications. They next plan on making the plug-in available for mobile phone email apps.
Updated 12:41 p.m. EST Dec. 31: This article has been updated to include comments from Reiss.