How to, like, stop using “like” kind of all the time
People use speech patterns of popular culture because they are, like, popular. Part of the fun of life is to copy what we hear said in films and TV because it is a way to share a common experience. Common experience is a great way to engage others. However, as my mom used to say, “Everything in moderation.” Today’s speech has become cluttered with “like,” “kind of,” and “sort of,” just as our highways have become cluttered with trash. Although many argue that these are just words and that they are a normal part of speaking, I argue that too much of this diminishes a person’s impact.
We all know that “kind of” doesn’t mean “absolutely.” Does it matter? To find the answer, ask yourself, “How much influence do I want?” On the dictionary.com blog post that addresses the use of “like,” Jim commented that “There probably would not be a marble statue of him if Abraham Lincoln had said: Like four score and seven like years ago our fathers like brought forth on like this continent a new like nation, conceived in like liberty, and like dedicated to the like proposition that all men are created like equal.”
I agree though he would have been a trendsetter! Instead, the first recorded use of “like” as a filler word appeared 20 years later, in Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novel Kidnapped: “’What’s like wrong with him?’ said she at last.” And thus began our increasing reluctance to take a stand.
Again, the real challenge with “like” is not that it is used, but how it is used. Its overuse seems to apologize for any conviction or strong opinions we have. In the example of Lincoln’s speech, Jim is really saying that when speakers want to inspire change but pepper their speech with words that are not strong, especially when they use a rising terminal (up-speak,) they are less likely to be taken seriously. Your impact as a speaker depends on the alignment of the purpose/intention of your speech, the words you use and your delivery. As slam poet Taylor Mali suggests in his wonderful poem “Totally, like whatever, you know,” when you overuse words such as “like,”
(It’s) As if I’m saying,
don’t think I’m a nerd just because I’ve, like, noticed this; ok
I have nothing personally invested in my own opinions,
I’m just, like, inviting you to join me on the bandwagon of my own uncertainty
If you notice words such as “like,” “sort of,” and “kind of”, like, creeping into your speech, or that of your children, here are some ideas for sort of kicking the habit (see what I mean? Will this help you kick the habit or not?).
Ideas for creating the habit:
- Pick a time for this exercise, and find a partner. Choose who will start talking and an easy topic, such as what you had for lunch or what you plan to do over the weekend. Set the timer for 1 minute. Take turns making a sound like a buzzer every time you hear the other person say “like,” “kind of” or “sort of.” This will help you become aware of how much you use such words. You may also notice how quickly you make different choices when you are caught in the act.
- When you hear yourself use such a word or phrase, stop and correct yourself. Here’s an example: “Wait, I’m not “kind of happy,” I AM happy.” Self-awareness moves you closer to breaking the habit; changing the delivery to one of strength will remind you of how to align your content and delivery with your intention to express a clear thought.
- There’s an app for this. The overuse of most of my favorite junk words can be minimized by purchasing the app, LikeSo, and, like, using it.
It takes anywhere from three weeks to 8 months to break a habit, depending on the complexity of it. Make a commitment to change the way you speak and keep after it by exercising the new skill for at least a month. It will
kind of make a difference in how others , like, perceive of you, which, in turn, will increase the impact of your communication.
For more on this, please see my post, This is why your communication doesn’t have impact