Jun 05 2017

How to, like, stop using “like” kind of all the time

Published by at 9:28 AM under Presence,Vocal Image


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 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 band wagon 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?):

1.     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.

2.     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.

3.     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

Or this article on Success Magazine site 


4 responses so far

4 Responses to “How to, like, stop using “like” kind of all the time”

  1. Grayon 05 Jun 2017 at 7:55 PM

    What an interesting post, Kate.
    I totally agree. Totally!

    There does seem to be some tension between the use of patterns of popular culture to impress, or to demonstrate one’s membership of the group, and the development of language. It is not only in speech that overused expressions devalue the complexity of the ideas being expressed. Writing too has become more and more laden with idiomatic phrases and non-standard punctuation and spelling as it becomes increasingly impoverished or more modern.
    Living languages have never stabilised into correct and proper forms. Chaucer’s writing, for example, is quite a challenge. This change, or development, or impoverishment has always been met with complaint.
    My point -OMG- is not that it is not totally awesome to, like, be part of the modern world, but that making ‘corrections’ can sometimes be a more complex process than one might at first assume. As your mom might have said: it’s not just a case of extinguishing some jargon, but of learning new lexicons and learning when to use which.
    In countries that have strong local dialects it is probably more helpful to be able to use them as appropriate and also to be able to use a standard ‘received’ pronunciation than to try to extinguish speech and pronunciation patterns learned during youth.
    Some patterns of popular culture can actually enrich communication provided they are not used to the exclusion of the wider range of expression that provides colour and meaning to one’s delivery.

    Just saying.

  2. Kateon 06 Jun 2017 at 7:50 AM

    Thanks for your thoughtful and thorough comment. I agree that the language is enriched by learning new lexicons and we need to be open to accepting and incorporating those as they come up. Perhaps people get lazy, to your point about the complexities of making corrections, being more mindful of language choices, or perhaps they just forget that there is a broad pallet of words and expressions from which to choose when expressing oneself! Or perhaps they just don’t know that. Mostly, I contend that when you want to influence or persuade others you need to be more mindful of your choices. It does take work. It is complex, but worth it, because the perception others have of you and their choice to listen to you or not, and even to what extent, is dependent on how well all the pieces fit together– purpose of communication, what you say and how you say it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Much appreciated.

  3. Lily Smithon 20 Jul 2017 at 1:00 AM

    This is exactly the problem I do have! You know, it seems to me we use these words “parasites” because of lacking the word-stock. Very often we just do not know how to express the thoughts correctly and how to compose good sentences. I believe we can solve this problem by reading more books and then by communicating with people on essential topics.

  4. Kateon 02 Aug 2017 at 8:43 AM

    Reading, communicating, having good talks with others– these would certainly make a difference in our ability to communicate. I always feel just a bit smarter and more interesting after I’ve read a good book. I think awareness of the behavior comes first, however, because we are talking about habits. We develop them and then don’t even realize we have them. It takes time and effort to break our knee-jerk responses and change the behavior. Thanks for your comments!

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