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  • Writer's pictureErin Bailey Lake

How to stop overusing "Like" – and why it matters

Since about 500 BC, philosophers have sought to understand the meaning of life.

Since about 1990 AD, leaders have sought to understand the meaning of like.

In ancient times, circa 1980, in low lying regions of Southern California, teens began using (and overusing) like in ways that baffled business people.

As this phenomenon grew and spread eastward, a debate began. Should business people lighten up and embrace the cool new slang, or push for language that's powerful, precise and inspiring?

What happens when we overuse LIKE, and why does it matter?

HOW do we overuse LIKE?

  1. In place of said: He was like, “Do your best. And I was like, “I will.”

  2. To express a state of mind: “She was like, wow!”

  3. As a meaningless filler word when we're thinking out loud: "And I was like…like, whatever…like, does it really, like, matter? "

Overusing LIKE like this dumbs down our language. It's imprecise and vague. That may not matter when you're making small talk on Zoom, but in business, we need punchy, precise words to make our directions clear and our objectives attainable. You can't solve a problem if you can't articulate its challenges, scope or solutions.

WHY do we overuse LIKE?

  • It’s cool. (acceptance)

  • It’s a tribal thing. (identity)

  • It’s a societal statement. (passive rebellion)

  • It’s a habit. (lack of awareness)

Today, in many of our coaching sessions, we teach clients how to un-learn the word LIKE. Here’s what we tell our clients:

-- How you use LIKE conversationally is up to you.

-- But in business, its overuse can distract your audience and undermine your credibility.

You can learn to break the LIKE habit (and other filler habits) with these five steps:

  • Convince you that it’s weakening your presentation.

  • Make you aware of how often you use it.

  • Explain how and why you’re overusing it.

  • Record your rehearsal and play it back to you.

  • Ask you to repeat segments of your rehearsal where you overuse LIKE or other fillers.

As for using LIKE in your personal conversations, you won’t stop unless you want to stop. In the evolution of language, cultural acceptance often trumps precision and clarity. That’s a choice only you can make.

To eliminate the use of like and other fillers in your business presentations, contact us:

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