When your coworker's verbal tic is, like, really distracting...

"My friend at work is a bit younger than me, around 23-years-old. She uses the word, "like," like, all the time. I want to tell her that it makes it hard for people to take her seriously, but I'm afraid of offending her. How can I tell her that she's doing it without pissing her off?"

"What's, like, the big deal?"

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The first thing to consider is whether or not she wants your advice. Is this someone who has approached you looking for mentorship previously? Because if not, critiquing her choice of verbal fillers may be an aggressive way to become a mentor. If you’re just irritated with how many times she says “like,” then you’re coming from the wrong place. If you really want to help this young woman, start that relationship by helping her with her presentations or how she can better pitch the boss, and save things that feel more personal for later.

Studies show that how we speak does affect how we are perceived, so her constant use of the word, "like," could be doing real damage to the perception of your young colleague in the workplace. When you feel like you’ve developed the kind of relationship where your advice will be appreciated, be kind, but be frank: “I thought you had a great idea in that meeting, but I think it would have really landed if you cut back on using the word "like." I used to struggle with saying ‘um’ too much, so I get it.” It’s important to offer a solution and not just a critique, and also to help her feel like this is common and correctable.

In the end, even if you never feel comfortable talking to her about her use of the word “like”, just be sure that you feel comfortable standing up for her good ideas, even the ones peppered with likes and ums. Have a question need answering? Email us at ask@women.work or contact us here.

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