Can You “Just” Anything?

Satir Congruence Model

Too often, I hear the word “just” when modifying a feeling. “Can’t you just shake it off?” Or, “Can’t you just move on?” Or, “Can you just go along with what I want?”

Every single one of those “justs” are about ignoring what the other person feels. If you’re on the receiving end of these kinds of questions, the other person asks you to placate.  Never mind what you think, feel or want. The requestor—rightly or wrongly—wants you to satisfy their needs.

That’s incongruence.

Here are some ways to think about how congruence works:

  • If I ignore myself and my needs, I placate you.
  • If I ignore you or don’t take your needs into account, I blame you.
  • If I ignore the humans and only consider the context, I’m being super-reasonable.

The “just” language often means I placate you, to accommodate what you claim you want.

When we’re at ease with the world, we’re often congruent. When we’re not at ease, we’re often incongruent.

And, we might not be congruent for any number of reasons:

  • We’re upset with how the other person feels or looks. When people ask me if I can’t just shake it off, they might think of me with pity or sympathy. They don’t like it. They want me to escape from the situation by shaking it off.
  • I’ve been in discussions that the other person thought was an argument. When they ask me if can’t just move on, they tell me they’re uneasy with the situation.
  • And, when people ask if I can just go along, I know they want me to placate them. Maybe they don’t want to argue with or influence other people.

We think being incongruent is easier than being congruent. It might be. But, just for the short-term. Over a longer time, the incongruence eats away at us.

Incongruence might eat away at our self-esteem. It might affect us physically—sometimes placaters get stomaches or headaches. They’re holding all of what they feel inside. That holding has a cost.

I’m blunt. In the past, I’ve said, “No, I can’t just anything.” That would be shake it off, move on, go along. In other words, ignore what I want and possibly the situation.

As I learn and grow, I now ask other questions:

  • “Are you worried about me in some way?” Sometimes, the other person is. The other person wants me to feel better, to do something more in my best interests.
  • “Are you feeling pressure from other people about this situation?’ When I extend a little empathy, I sometimes hear interesting replies.
  • “Are you worried about how other people would perceive you?” I often see this problem in organizations. I might frame this question differently, but I try to understand if it’s how this person feels or if they’re worried about how other people see them.

The “just” questions might or might not be about me. They often exist to create ease for the requestor. Even if they don’t do that.

“Just” questions aren’t the only incongruent questions, but I see and hear them a lot. To me, they’re a tip-off, a clue.

I can attempt the “just” request. I might not find it useful for my life or my work. I get to decide. And, yes, sometimes I do stop attempting to discuss and move on :-)

That, my dear adaptable readers, is the question this week: Can you “just” anything?

(Updated to fix the definition of super-reasonable. I had it backwards in the original post. Oops. Now fixed.)

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