By Katherine Ryan on February 25, 2021

I have a tendency to consider my choice of words carefully; as those of you how have worked with me are well aware!  For me, words matter a great deal, they have the power to build understanding as well as the power to hurt.  I would imagine that most of you, at some point in your life, have been on the receiving end of both.

Recently I have been paying even more attention to my choice of words and there are at least two I would like to eradicate from my vocabulary, “just” and “should”.    When I use the word “just” it is to minimize, “It is just that I…”  “it is just a…” and, I “just (haha) discovered that isn’t a definition at all.  According to my handy Google dictionary, as an adjective it means, “based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair. “a just and democratic society”.  I think that most of us are familiar with that definition.  As an adverb it means, “1. exactly. “that’s just what I need” or 2. “very recently; in the immediate past. “I’ve just seen the local paper”.  I am sure that I am not the only person whose use of the word has fallen away from its definition.  For a replacement I am going to give “simply” and “only” a whirl.  “I simply wanted to reach out…”  “I only wanted…”

And “should”, I cannot think of a reason why using that word would be effective.  It is not kind and would probably not lead to the desired result.  It is especially unkind when we are talking to ourselves.    Whenever somebody tells me I “should” do something I feel myself stiffen inside.  I think there are more accurate ways to convey whatever one is trying to convey.    I am going to try these ways of replacing “should”.  ”You may want to think about…” or even “I am sure you have already considered…”  “Please…” or “It would be helpful if…” or  “would it be possible…” or, even “hey, you said you were going to empty the dishwasher, when are you planning to do that?” or, “Hey, it seems like you haven’t had a chance to empty the dishwasher yet, it would be helpful if you could do that before dinner.”

Once I began thinking about the words I don’t like I became aware that there were more than two!  Here are some of the other culprits:

“Broken”, a useful and potentially accurate word when describing something one has dropped, or a fence or bones.  Most definitely not accurate when describing oneself or other people.  People are not broken.  People may have a broken heart, or a squashed spirit, or even a crushed spirit or both a broken heart and a wounded spirit.  People may have lost themselves somewhere along the way.  It does not mean that one is broken!

“Fixed”, is also not helpful when describing something that one feels one, or others, need.  It implies that you, or others are broken, please see above.

“I think” can used to make one’s thoughts softer, minimize them or to make another person comfortable at the cost of downplaying your knowledge or point of view.   I do not want to banish the phrase 😉; I ask that we use it only when we are not sure of the facts, i.e.  I think Zumi’s closes early on Sundays, is fine if one does not know, but if one does know, own your knowledge!

“I am sorry”.  A heartfelt apology warms my soul. Matter of fact or forced apologies do not.  Let’s not apologize for things that don’t need apologizing for. has an interesting article “I’m sorry”.  Their 8 reasons not to Is excerpted below, you may check the article out here: written by Laura Caseley.

  1. You Probably Don’t Have Anything To Be Sorry For
  2. It Makes You Seem Weak
  3. It Makes You Look Guilty
  4. It Might Cause Unnecessary Guilt
  5. It Can Be Annoying
  6. Sorry Loses Its Meaning
  7. You’re Setting A Bad Example
  8. Silence Can Be Golden


“Nice .“  Often, in our attempt to be nice, we subvert our own feelings and needs.  Aim for being kind ~ your needs and feelings are not less important than anyone else’s.

“Normal”, ugh, nothing is normal!  My normal may not be your normal.  I much prefer typical.  Typical is the word I use most often.  Although the other day I found myself carefully deciding to use the word “normal” it more accurately described what I meant than “typical” would have.

I need to stop writing this blog before I think of more words to add.  Do you have words you want to avoid?


~Katherine Ryan is a LMHC (Licensed Mental Health Counselor) practicing at Harmony Counseling in Topsfield, Massachusetts where she enjoys helping adults, children and teens become unstuck.

~Nina is a 6-year-old Standard Poodle who enjoys playing catch with her pink racquetball, hiking, belly rubs and going to work with Katherine


239 Boston Street, Topsfield, MA 01983