“You know, like, I was thinking, like, maybe we should, like, talk to the team, like, you know what I mean?”

I talked last week with a young professional who told me her pet peeve was people who use the word “like” incorrectly in a sentence.  She had no problem when the word fit, but those who used the word over and over in a sentence made her a little crazy.

Her comment rang a bell for me as I hear so many people doing this – to the point that I am very conscious of when I use the word “like” and if I use it incorrectly. If you are guilty of saying “like” too many times in a conversation, you can modify your behavior; yes, you can stop!

Changing behavior begins with understanding the reason for poor behavior.  You use “like” as a placeholder. You don’t want to lose your place in the conversation to someone else while you think of what to say next. It is the same as saying “umm” or “ahh”.

Conversations are tricky – you have to work to make them good.  As the speaker you owe it to the listener to actively think while talking; work at it, try hard to speak words, phrases and sentences that are meaningful.  You will find you use fewer place holders.

If, during a conversation, you need a moment to consider what to say next, insert silence rather than “like”.  True, you run the risk of losing your place in the conversation – and you may need to ask the listener to give you time to speak your entire thought – but at least you are not using “like” or other place holders.  If you work hard to think while talking, you won’t need place holders, you will need fewer silences and you will speak with fluid intelligence!

As a listener, you need to work as well; try harder.  Be the considerate listener who allows the speaker to finish his or her thought before commenting.

Yes, even your conversations can be more professional.