Jun 05 2017

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

Published by 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

Apr 12 2017

How to inspire others

Published by under Musings

dreamstime_m_30015540What makes a talk or conversation inspiring?  Is it magic? Is it power? Is it beauty that inspires? Is it joy, pain, or sorrow? Leaders often feel a need to be inspiring because they want to get people to embrace their ideas and follow their lead. Performers want to capture the moment to bring an audience to tears or laughter.  Yet, capturing the moment doesn’t necessarily capture the heart and soul of another human being to inspire them, and we are not all inspired by the same things. Being inspirational is not a given, even when you have something important to say.

Research on inspiration, by psychologists Thrash and Elliot, shows us that inspiration is something that is evoked…that it happens to people spontaneously. Therefore, you may set out to be inspirational and fail miserably.  However, research also shows the importance of inspiration– that it paves the way for people to be more creative and more motivated to get out there and make things happen. Thus, we need inspiration, and though a gorgeous rainbow may inspire awe, we also need to be inspired by other human beings.

Lots of people have ideas about what makes a person or moment inspirational. From Navy Seals  to psychometricians to bloggers, the internet is full of opinions and articles that describe what makes someone or somthing inspiring.  Many are compelling and some are even brilliant, so I encourage you to follow the links on this page to learn more.  However, I’ve selected 7 characteristics of inspirational communication that seem to be universal as well as a few inspirational video clips to illustrate my points. Thus, if you want to be inspirational:

1.     Move them to action. An article by Paul Jarvis in Huff Post, called “Motivational quotes on social media are ruining your life,” sums it up pretty well. He says, “If quotes on Twitter aren’t moving you towards action and instead just move you towards looking at more quotes, then maybe it’s time to make a change.”  Similarly, the research shows that  “inspiration involves both being inspired by something and acting on that inspiration.”

2.     Have a point and a point of view. This could be a belief that only you have, or a universal truth, a brand new idea or a need for action. Whatever it is, to inspire you must be credible and clear about your intention for the talk.  Could Zak Ebrahim be more clear that in his TED talk, I am the son of a terrorist; here’s how I chose peace?

3.     Use common experience. Thank God, most of us don’t have Zak’s situation, but common experience can be extremely inspirational as well, especially when delivered as a story. Stories connect us in ways that data never will, no matter how compelling the numbers.  They move us better than goals or directives. There’s an illustration from the movie, The Peaceful Warrior: Take out the trash.

4.     Bring out emotion. When you watch movie clips, you hear music come in at exactly the right place to enhance the emotion of the moment. It’s a technique with a purpose, which is to emphasize the emotion in the moment, the place where the heart comes in. Expressive delivery and words can be used powerfully as Rocky does in his famous “It ain’t how hard you hit,” scene. But you don’t always need big, loud emotion. Check out Bagger Vance for something subtler.

5.     Give them time to take it in. You can use volume as an emotional component of delivery, but you can also use silence to punctuate your point, to let it sink in.  If you don’t give your ideas and emotions time to sink in, you may miss an inspirational moment, no matter how expressive, relevant, and moving your words and delivery. An uncomfortable pause may be just the ticket to an unforgettable and inspiring moment.

6.     Be memorable. Hopefully, your story is unforgettable in itself, but  here are three other ways to be memorable:

  • Use sound bites to punctuate a point, or repeat important phrases to help drive the message home and make it stick.
  • Give them something unusual to remember; get creative.
  • List takeaways or steps your audience can remember to increase the chance that they will be inspired to follow your guidance and use your ideas, knowing exactly what to do.

7.     Be authentic.  Most importantly, merely quoting others, using old axioms, or preaching dogmas will not be inspirational, although I rather like the one I pasted below. Your words and delivery must come from your core beliefs, your heart and your experience. A classic example of this is Toni Morrison’s Commencement address to Rutgers– her story, her perspective, from the heart. Inspirational!dreamstime_m_34690988






No responses yet

« Prev - Next »