“Could You Just Put an Ad Together for Me?”
If you’re a creative, that sort of thing might raise your hackles. It certainly raises mine, though being the calm, cool and collected type, I try not to let it show.
While I used to take offense, thinking (perhaps rightfully) that it was about the perceived valuation of what creatives do, and the ‘fun’ and ‘ease’ of our chosen profession, I’m now thinking more along the lines of guys like Frank Luntz:
It’s a language issue.
Or as I tend to think, a perception issue.
This morning I was asked by a client to ‘just review something and make all of the necessary changes by day’s end’.
I said that I’d do my best to get it done, but had a pretty tight schedule and a number of meetings – all true. But, as I do like my clients and do my best to accommodate them whenever possible, I said sure, though it would be later in the day. The reality however, lies in the analysis of the words – the choice of language.
What does ‘just’ do to a request?
It devalues it.
Does that seem extreme? Well, consider the following:
“Could you just put a client letter together for me?”
“Could you draft a client letter for me?”
With the first, I think, is the implication that this will be a quick, easy – and likely cheap – process.
The second, however, shows a degree of peer-respect and professionalism – with which comes a certain set of expectations and a corresponding fee.
And it certainly doesn’t only apply to creatives.
Could you just set my broken arm? Could you just install a swimming pool? Could you just fly this plane to LA?
But remove just, and the interaction and request moves to a constructive, measured and respectful conversation.
The task in question becomes more important, (or at least its importance is recognized, instead of downplayed). So do the folks performing whatever that task may be, which subtly moves them from mere dime-a-dozen provider to professional status. And no self-respecting professional is going to do half-assed work for a lesser fee because it’s thinly couched in the ‘just’ terminology.
And it applies beyond the business and professional sphere as well. There is a right way and a wrong way to communicate with people, and words are the tools at our disposal.
Here’s my advice: if you’re asking anything important of anyone, perhaps it’s best top leave ‘just doing it’ to the folks at Nike. Try it out first in the privacy of your own home, or just in your head. Trust me: drop the ‘just’.
Otherwise, just can be unjust.
Or am I just being silly…?