Today I’m speaking out about something that I’ve run across once too often, in the hope that it will help both the ask-er and the ask-ee. It is the question, “Why don’t you ‘just’….?” Other common variations might be, “Why wouldn’t you ‘just’…?” or, “Couldn’t you ‘just’ …?”
I’m sure that on very rare occasions this approach might shed light on some previously un-thought-of, useful solutions, but far more often than not, this phrase just alienates the listener and causes them to feel dim-witted and inadequate. Or make them angry and conflicted, because why would they be angry when someone is just offering ‘help’? I’m sure there are those who say this that mean well, but instead are insulting beleaguered and stressed souls everywhere – exacerbating the problems when they are already feeling overwhelmed. Especially timely right now with the current holiday preparations racing toward (hopefully) completion, this is the perfect time of year to examine this issue. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one to get slightly irate when someone, usually right after I’ve mentioned some difficulty or conundrum I’m dealing with, says, “Well, why don’t you just… (fill in the blank)?”
Huh. The most obvious thing in the world… ‘Cuz… it is.
The recipient of this ridiculous phrase is invariably thinking…. ‘Really? Oh, wow, I wish I’d thought of that…’ (Insert sarcasm font here – sarcasm really does deserve its own font…!) It rather connotes a sort of condescension, implying a complete and utter lack of faith in the listener’s intelligence and problem-solving capabilities.
Listen. Come on… if it were really were as simple as ‘just’ anything, why would you think they would not already utilized your particular brilliant strategy? I mean, really? If there were a ‘just’ – any ‘just’ – in this particular situation, don’t you think they would have done it already? How can you ‘just’ blithely assume that the person you are conversing with would have overlooked or dismissed such a solution? Chances are, they’ve already gone through several possibilities and your fantastic idea did not make the cut.
Now, I get that most people don’t actually mean to be insulting – most are truly thinking they are helping when they say this, so this is why I have brought this up. People… it’s not helping.
So what are the reasons people say this? I’m guessing most often it’s to try fix the other people’s problems. Perhaps they feel they know what’s happening, on the surface, but with no real familiarity of what the inner fabric of another’s life really consists of or what they are capable of. Maybe with a few, it’s simply a lack of empathy, plus they enjoy steam-rolling others to do what they think others should be doing.
And, well – talk is cheap.
For the record, whatever the reason, to everyone out there who might employ this phrase — please – stop. ‘Just’ stop (see what I did there? ;-)).
It. Does. Not. Help. At all.
Now pay attention – here’s the HOW TO part of this article…. If you find yourself beginning to say the “J” word or tempted to say anything even remotely similar, STOP, and instead employ one or more of the following:
Option number 1 – Say nothing. If in doubt – simply trust that others have the intelligence to figure it out and do the right thing for them, and are working through it at their own pace, the way they need to.
Option number 2 – Before saying anything (if you must), ASK someone if they are looking for your opinion. Many times they are not. But – if they want your opinion, do not – I repeat, do NOT – revert to, “Well, why don’t you just….?” A heartfelt offer comes from an entirely different place than assuming you know more or better than the other person.
Option number 3 – (CAUTION – this option is for only the advanced or extremely brave) Say only, “Can I help?” And mean it. Then follow through, without any expectation that they should do anything that you might think they should. The look of gratitude from those who truly do need help will be worth more than any feeling of superiority of providing (unwanted) solutions.
So, now that you’re equipped, there’s no excuse to ever again say, “Why don’t you just….?” With some reflection and compassion, I hope that you will see fit to strike this phrase from your lingual repertoire forever. Be kind.
Now – go ahead and share this with anyone who might need to read this. You know who they are.