The word “like,” a Millennial’s word to fill just about any empty space. As a Millennial myself, I somehow have been able to escape the “like” monster… perhaps it is because I present weekly at my marketing job – and more than one “like” slipping out would like-ly hurt my professional credibility.
What prompted this blog post, you ask? Watching a reality TV show recently, I noticed a young woman speaking. Every start to her sentence was this word. That was all I could hear… nothing else but that word! I mean it isn’t an expletive or anything, but I could barely focus on the content of her words, because it was filled with ..”well,” “um,” and “like!”
I know this has gone mainstream and there are plenty of people who overuse the word, including myself at one time. I had to make a conscious effort to try to remove that specific context from my speech. This can be the same for “um.” Both words are a nervous filler or pause.
“Why do we use filler words? The simplest answer is that we have been conditioned to answer questions immediately from an early age. When our mother or father asked us a question, we were sure to answer right away—either because we wanted to show respect or because we were afraid of what would happen if we didn’t answer. Consequently, we feel the urge to speak when spoken to.” -Harvard Extension School
Our brains can only move so fast, however it is perfectly okay to pause and think! In a world of instant gratification, we want to provide an immediate answer or reply. A few seconds to collect our thoughts and articulate a response, is more than acceptable. So why don’t we write the word “like?” Because we have plenty of time to collect our thoughts, edit, go back and review our work… there is no sense of urgency.
“When you use a filler word such as “um,” you are thinking verbally. In other words, you are verbalizing your thought process. Armed with this information, it is easy to realize that the best way to avoid using filler words is to pause. If you are not speaking, you can’t say “um”!” -Harvard Extension School
Perhaps this post is ringing a few bells for you? So how to fix the issue. And yes it is an issue, because in life you will be expected to properly articulate your thoughts for jobs, interviews, business transactions, networking, etc. As noted above by the Harvard Extension School in their article Tips on Public Speaking: Eliminating the Dreaded “Um”, there are two great ways to correct filler words:
- When speaking or when asked a question, pause. Think about your words slowly, then respond. Consciously try not to use the words “like” or “um.” Self-awareness comes with maturity, keep that in mind.
- Ask someone to point out these words when you say them. In a recent presentation, I noticed a former co-worker said the word “um” 45 times in a 10 minute span. Yes, I counted. Obviously she did not know it was happening to that extent. With help from a trusted friend or co-worker, you can actualize the severity of the issue.
I hope this helped some folks! I would love to hear your story, perhaps about a word you overused but then were able to correct.