BLOG: Speak to Understand, Not to Respond

KIT MILLER

I was in like English class and this girl like answered a questions and she said the word “like” like 37 times in like one minute. Like I counted and it was like 37 times. It really like irritated me because it was like so distracting from what she was saying. I was just like sitting there and begging for her to hurry up and like get to the point. I was also really intrigued, though, because the overuse of the word “like” is a really like interesting concept. The word “like” has been used as like a slang term since as early as like 1886. Other slang terms, like the popular word “groovy” from the 1960s, went away after like 15 years, so like why has “like” been so popular? Simple: the “like” epidemic came when people stopped listening to each other.

As someone who really enjoys English, I spend an extensive amount of my free time paying attention to it. Through various readings I have noticed something fascinating. The word “like” is never used as a slang term in writing. It can sometimes be found in dialogue in fiction books but almost never anywhere else. What makes writing so different from speaking? Some argue that writing gives one more time to think of what one wants to say, whereas conversations are spontaneous and require quick thinking. That is a weak argument though; as anyone who has taken a timed writing will understand. The problem is not having to think quickly: it is people not listening carefully. Conversations today are so rapid, and people are so quick and eager to voice their own opinions, that they literally do not give themselves the time they need to think before they speak. Conversations require an equal balance of speakers and listeners to flow naturally. However, conversations in today’s society are becoming more and more self-centered. There are too many speakers and not nearly enough listeners. That is where the word “like” stems from. People are forced to speak really fast and get their point across quickly because whoever they are talking to is just impatiently waiting for his/her turn to speak. So instead of articulating exactly what they want to say, people are forced to speak in a roundabout way that will get their message across in the quickest way possible, with that way often being through the word “like”. The purpose of a conversation is not necessarily to respond; it is to listen – really listen – to one another. When one does not listen, one does not understand. When one does not understand, one does not communicate clearly. When one does not communicate clearly, the dreaded “like” rears its ugly head and dominates the so-called conversation until the people involved are left struggling for a ledge to get an edge above the others, sacrificing their ability to think in the process. People devote their time to reading a book when they enjoy what the author has written, so why don’t people devote their time to listening to what someone they enjoy talking to has to say?

People around me always ask why I don’t talk. The simplest answer I can give is I choose not to. In a society dominated by conversation, I figure the world could use a few more listeners. I implore you to take a step back from the limelight and observe the conversations around you. Notice how quickly topics change and how frequently people talk. Then listen. Listen with all your body and soul and allow the words to flow through you like wind through the open plains, echoing and resounding with meaning and resilience. When the urge to speak becomes too great to suppress… freeze. Think thoroughly of what you want to say. You would never publish a rough draft of something, so why would you speak that way?

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