As a writer, you would be forgiven for assuming that I’d be an eloquent, vocabulary-rich speaker who instantly commands the attention of the room. But you would be very, very wrong. You see, I’ve grown up in a world where the prose of a Kardashian, or a Hills-dwelling Teen Vogue intern is of more influence than that of someone who actually knows what they’re talking about. It’s not my fault though, I’m purely a victim of society. Or so I tell myself.
When I was challenged with giving up something for 5 days, my mind boggled. What would cause such an impact on my life over 5 days that it would hurl me into a new routine, a new life? It was after an office-wide binge watching of The Hills and the subsequent mocking of their LA drawl littered with likes that I realized I too am victim of this typically Gen-Y vernacular. Obviously, this needed to change. When a self-imposed hour of no likes fell flat at around 45 minutes, I knew I had a problem.
What am I gaining from 5 days without saying like? According to Don Watson, former political speech-writer, author and defender of vocabulary, not a lot. He’s bored of banal, mundane “middle manager” speech and actually cites it as the cause of the death of language – there’s no personality anymore, he argues. On the other hand, Lynda Spillane says it’s not what you say, but how you say it; it’s all about the pauses and the speed – or so she says.
So here we are, five days without saying like. Will I sound smarter at the end of this? Or is like just a part of our language we need to get used to? Stay tuned.
Day 1: Monday
It’s day one, and I couldn’t be more terrified. Monday is a day notoriously filled with meetings and thus, a whole lot of talking. FML. But I’ve officially gotten to 9am sans like. Am I an adult yet?
I spoke too soon. Meetings have been the death of me. I start off strong, utilizing pauses and bevvy of filler words. Each sentence is interrupted with an “oh f—k, I just said like” and my inputs to meetings seem to run out a little longer than usual.
Sporadic bursts of conversation in the office lead me to again, bust out the L word. But I’m getting more conscious of what I’m saying and thinking a lot more about how I want to phrase things, which at this point means that I’m talking a lot slower. I have a feeling that I’ll be a lot more articulate in the coming days. I hope.
Day 2: Tuesday
Day two and I’m feeling good. I haven’t said like yet, and I’ve been very social this morning. Morning chats, a coffee run and a briefing with our designer (who is also a fan of the L word, and is often responsible for my relapse) went like free. My optimism is dashed when I remember that I have dinner plans tonight – wine is surely going to fuck this up for me?
Dinner with a friend is of course, littered with likes. It’s the combination of wine and being around a friend who says like a whole lot more than me. Oh well, there’s always tomorrow?
Day 3: Wednesday
Day three is off to a cracking start. After turning a new leaf post my like-filled evening of dumplings and wine, I’m yet to drop the L word. I’m feeling articulate and when I speak it’s becoming more and more well thought out. Go me?
Things get pretty official when my co-workers tell me I’m talking a lot slower and more thoughtfully in comparison to my previous chaotic stream of speech. It sounds like saying like is really making me sound dumb.
By day 4 I’m feeling a lot more articulate, and a lot more conscious of what I’m saying. Instead of just barging into conversations with a like-riddled offering of my opinion, I’m thinking about what I want to say, and the best way to say it. Obviously this doesn’t mean I’m filled with a new found intelligence, I just sound less like a walking stereotype. Yay me?
The end is in sight and I’m feeling good. Obviously, the occasional like slips in here and there, but I’m relying on it as a filler a lot less and am branching out to the ever so reliable um. Joking, I use big words now, too.
On my last day of this experiment, I end up working from home which is such a fail – social interactions today will prove to be minimal. I am however, messaging co-workers and and doing a lot of online talking, where I’ve noticed I surprisingly said like a lot in the past, more often than not I’d use it to make a statement sound less demanding or to appear as if I’m not nagging to make sure my co-workers get it that I’m not a huge bitch. Not sure about that logic, but that’s why I’m doing this 5 days thing.
So what did I learn? I learnt that saying like is a totally normal thing – it’s infiltrated the vernacular of even the most un-Gen Y speakers, and it’s become commonplace. Except no one really knows how much they say it; co-workers season their sentences with more likes than necessary, and during my 5 days I became hyper aware of it. While struggling in meetings to refrain from the L word, bosses would go ham with it while I stuttered over a suitable like replacement. Friends dished up likes as if a sentence would have no meaning without it.
So in a world totally addicted to “like,” what do we gain from going 5 days without it? A better understanding of how our words impact people. I found that during days 2-3 when I was struggling with my like detox I was speaking slower, planning out what I was saying and in general, being a more thoughtful and strategic speaker. It was on these days I got told I sounded more articulate, not on the days when I avoided saying like altogether. The conclusion? As Lynda Spillane says, it’s not what you say but how you deliver your message. If the Kardashians have impacted your vocab a little too much, who cares – have conviction in what you’re saying and respect will follow. With or without like.