It’s incredible how much of a difference there is in the way we speak and the way we write. Writing is much more deliberate and able to be edited. Speaking is done in real time and more reflective of our unconscious habits.
Ever since moving to California about 8 years ago, I have noticed a strange behavior I have adopted. It is the tendency to use the word ‘like’ in random places in my sentences.
This is, of course, a notoriously Californian habit, handed down from the Valley Girls of yesteryear, and now seemingly a part of most younger people’s style of speaking. Not just in America, but in many parts of the world.
Recently I overheard some young children using ‘like’ every few words. It sounded almost ridiculous coming from them, but I realized they had learned it by listening to the adults surrounding them.
After shaking my head like a snobby, know-it-all adult, I started to listen to my own speaking style in conversations. Amazingly, this ‘like’ habit had started to creep into my vernacular as well.
‘Like’ is an interesting word. It has several meanings, and especially in casual conversation, it conveys a lot.
We use it to explain what someone said. (He was like, “no way”)
We use it to convey a feeling. (I was, like, so disappointed)
We use it to give an approximate value. (It took me, like, three days)
We use it to minimize the impact of a word. (I don’t mean to be, like, offensive)
I’ll leave it a linguist to explain the etymology and detrimental effects ‘like’ can have.
Other words that have crept into my life are ‘just’ and ‘totally’. They rarely add value, but are part of my everyday speaking pattern.
The point I want to make here is that we are much more easily influenced than we admit.
I once heard it said that each person is basically a patchwork quilt of the beliefs and behaviors of others. The environment we live in has a powerful effect on who we become. Without even knowing it, this amalgam of other’s tendencies is what form our personality.
I think this goes both ways. Some of the best and worst habits I have are the result of being around specific people.
Of course, the magic of being a conscious human is that once you are aware of your behavior you can begin to change it. Since noticing my penchant for adding ‘like’ into almost every sentence, I’ve started to change it.
Over the past week, I have made an effort to slow down my conversation and use words that are more accurate than ‘like’.
The benefit I am finding is that my impact is stronger when I speak. My word use is more deliberate and I am calmer. It’s a small tweak, but it has a big impact.
There are so many quirks that I have picked up and taken on as my own. I winder how many quirks I might have that I don’t notice, even though they may be obvious to everyone else.
The more of these quirks I can remove, the more I become a truly original human being.