These common ‘kneecapping’ words prevent you from fully communicating your needs


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Before sending any email, text, or Instagram message, I do what I call “a fluff check.” This involves scanning the text for any superfluous language that I’ve added out of habit to make my sentences sound peachy-keen. Such habits aren’t so easy to kick. “Kneecapping,” as Instagram user Rose Speaks calls it, plagues women in particular. It makes us think we need to add modifiers so that our message comes across like a cool summer breeze—no matter it’s content.

Maggie Jones, MA, LPCC, and psychotherapist points out in a regram of the post that this subconscious editing doesn’t do us any favors. “When we are so tuned-in to other’s emotions and potential reactions (for whatever reason—past relational trauma, oppression) it can be hard NOT to subconsciously soften our words in order to avoid potential conflict,” she writes. Really, we should only be altering language intentionally.

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This comes from @rosespeaks_, and they point out how important this is for marginalized folxs. . It’s also important for people pleasers, HSPs, and empaths. When we are so tuned-in to other’s emotions and potential reactions (for whatever reason—past relational trauma, oppression) it can be hard NOT to subconsciously soften our words in order to avoid potential conflict…. Which, sometimes it’s totally ok. The key is having a choice around it; being able to use it as a tool when you deem it necessary instead of always doing it out of habit. . We add modifiers like this when we’ve learned that we need to keep ourselves small… and per usual, this was likely a brilliant survival tactic helping us safely navigate unsafe conditions—our family of origin… an oppressive culture. . But now as adults it’s become ingrained and is holding us back, because when we speak like this we dampen our energy. The energy we put out into the world is muddied and constrained. . The worlds needs our energy shining clearly and at full capacity. . #peoplepleasing #peoplepleaser #emotionalintelligence #innerchildwork #selfcare #selfcompassion #selfawareness #soulwork #authenticity #innerwork #highlysensitiveperson #empath #mentalhealth #mentalhealthawareness #spiritualityandmentalhealth #modernmystic #spiritualhealing #soulgrowth #tarotreadersofinstagram #astrologersofinstagram #queertherapist #spiritualawareness #spiritualawakening #transpersonalpsychology #kansastherapist #radicalselflove #boundaries #innerchild #lawrencekansas

A post shared by Maggie Jones, MA, LPCC (@sacredcirclecounseling) on

Words like “just,” “maybe,” “sort of”—to be perfectly clear—are not just the currency of digital communication. As Rose points out in the original post, they’re often invoked when we’re well within our rights to set a boundary, but feel the need to soften it to protect ourselves or appear agreeable. (For example, “That sort of makes me feel uncomfortable.” Really: there’s no “sort of.” You feel uncomfortable. Period. End of story.)

Going on autopilot with this gendered vernacular takes a measure of free will out of speech, but we can take it back by paying a little more attention to what we say. “The key is having a choice around it; being able to use it as a tool when you deem it necessary instead of always doing it out of habit,” says Jones. You don’t have to banish the “J”-word from your vocabulary permanently. It just doesn’t belong in sentence structures that emphasize—and re-emphasize—uneven (often gendered) power dynamics.

As treasured author Toni Morrison, who died earlier this week, said in her Nobel lecture, “We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.” What Morrison is saying is that language is ours to tear down and rebuild letter by letter, word by word, and sentence by sentence. Language is an active pursuit. It’s ours—no just’s, maybe’s, or sort of’s about it.

Sending performative emails? Here’s how to stop right now. And this outbox template will get your boss to answer in five minutes or less

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