Just Not Sorry! (the backstory)

Tami Reiss
4 min readDec 22, 2015

Tami Reiss is the founder of The Product Leader Coach where she works with product leaders and teams to realize their potential by focusing on their strengths.

This is the behind the scenes story of the how the team at Cyrus Innovation came to build Just Not Sorry, a plug in for Gmail that highlights you when you type “just” “sorry” and a few other undermining words.

The Problem:

A few weeks ago, I was at brunch for the League of Extraordinary Women organized by Sarit Wishnevski. After watching some Amy Schumer clips, the group was discussing how we all shared the same bad tendencies to use “just” and “sorry” when we knew that we shouldn’t.

The article about famous quotes said in “woman in a meeting” language was brought up. There was a collective “UGH” about how true it was and how we wished that it wasn’t.

I had been part of similar conversations before. One recently at a SheWorx breakfast where Adam Quinton encouraged the attendees to stop using “we think” or “we hope to…” in investor pitches.

The women in these rooms were all softening their speech in situations that called for directness and leadership. We had all inadvertently fallen prey to a cultural communication pattern that undermined our ideas. As entrepreneurial women, we run businesses and lead teams — why aren’t we writing with the confidence of their positions?

There was the desire to change, but there wasn’t a tool to help.


I turned to Gillian Morris and said “If we made a gmail plug-in that highlighted these trigger words, would you use it?”

She emphatically responded, “LOVE IT! Yes!”

I polled the other ladies in attendance, and everyone said they would use it and spread the word. Kara Silverman even offered some pro bono promotional support from her firm, Small Girls PR.

This is my bitmoji… it has a striking resemblance

The Tool:

Just Not Sorry is a Google Chrome plug-in that underlines words that undermine your message. It takes 3 seconds to download and then every email you write is reviewed for trigger words.

It looks like you’ve misspelled them (slight color difference between standard Gmail spellcheck)

Message with trigger words underlined by Just Not Sorry

Because our brains are trained to see that as an error, you immediately go back to edit them. But they are spelled correctly! At which point, you realize it’s because the word is hurting our message.

If you aren’t sure why a particular word or phrase is underlined, hover over it for a quick education hint. We used content from Tara Sophia Mohr who calls these words “Shrinkers”; Lydia Dishman who explains how these phrases are useless; Syliva Ann Hewlett who emphasizes that women need to stop apologizing; and Yao Xiao who shows us how “thank you” is more effective than sorry.

We’re found in our beta tests that not only does this reduce the use of these terms in email, but it builds mindfulness to avoid them in all written and verbal communication.

Why this is important:

When someone uses one of these qualifiers, it minimizes others confidence in their ideas. Whether you’re persuading an investor to provide funding, announcing a change in direction to your colleagues, or promoting your services to a client, you are building their confidence in you.

Qualifiers hint to the reader that you don’t have faith in what you’re saying. The last thing you need is to seem unsure of yourself. We want to make it easy to kick the habit by making it obvious when these qualifiers are holding us back.

What’s Next:

Our friend Emma Sinclair suggested that Just Not Sorry should be women’s New Year’s resolution for 2016. We created www.justnotsorry.com to help people publicize their desire to change.

Our goal is to have 10,000 women sign the pledge and have more effective email communication be their New Year’s resolution for 2016. We hope you’ll sign the pledge today and share with your friends.

Finally, we know that this is only the beginning, so we open sourced the code so that other people can build similar tools or add functionality to Just Not Sorry.

Hi! I’m Tami, the founder of The Product Leader Coach where I work with product leaders and teams to realize their potential by focusing on their strengths.

If you enjoyed this post, I am available for product leadership coaching or team training. Learn more about my services and upcoming children’s book.



Tami Reiss

Product Leader Coach @tamireiss guides you to focus on your strengths to achieve your goals. Instructor @ Product Institute, Kellogg, Wharton, and more.