I don’t like, like, you know…LIKE!

COMMUNICATION is a key to business success. If you cannot clearly and plainly state your business goals, your business concept and your business finances, your chances for success are quite low.

However, I am continually amazed at the general butchery of the English language by the current generation; one of my particular peccadillos is the use of the word like. As in, “like, you know, like.” It reminds me of the Frank Zappa 1982 music video, “Valley Girl,” but in the interests of saving your ears and sanity, I won’t post the link (but you can search YouTube for it yourself. Enjoy!).

I participated in an informational meeting this past week with a senior student (who is majoring in a very difficult discipline). The meeting included three of my staff and two students. About a fourth of the way through the meeting, I found myself mentally noting (actually, counting) how many times the two students used the term like (with additional extra credit for throwing in, “you know” as an affirmative to “like.” (Like, you know, like how many like likes, you know?).

Seriously, I literally lost count after a few minutes. Nearly every single line of conversation was punctuated with repetition of these terms; here’s nearly a verbatim of the introduction to our discussion:

“Like, we really wanted to like meet with you, to like discuss some ideas that, you know, like, we had, to see if, like, we could like get some information, you know, like about internships and stuff, like for our classmates.”

I am not making this up. I am not exaggerating for the sake of this blog.

The two of them staggered through the meeting adding “like” and “like, you know” and “you know” over and over and over. One student, I believe for extra effect, threw in quite a few “umm” phrases as well, as in “Umm, well, like, we thought <umm> we might, like, you know, help everyone <umm> learn more about like your programs and well, <umm>, more about what you, like, really do here (you know?).”

I actually stopped them both after about (umm, like) 20 minutes and TOLD THEM DIRECTLY what they were doing. They both seemed stunned (and oblivious) and one actually seemed a little embarrassed.

That individual (let’s call him “Like-Man”) actually thanked me for pointing it out, and he agreed the insertion of said phrase was, like, annoying, you know?

The other (let’s call him “You-Know” — isn’t this fun?) seemed a bit miffed and just stared at me.

I suggested, for a few, like, you know, minutes, like I’ll be you, and like, you can play my role. While You-Know didn’t seem too thrilled, Like-Man was actually engaged and laughed a bit while agreeing to placate me with the concept. I even offered to record them while they spoke, but You-Know was not excited about the idea so we skipped that part.

I said, “Like, I’m going to, like, you know, explain, like, what our like companies, you know, like do here. Then, like, you know, we can like talk about, you know, internships, and then like decide like if we like want to do them, like, you know, or not. Okay?”

Immediately, You-Know said, “Hey, no way do we say like that much! There’s just no way!”

I suggested they engage me in conversation without consciously saying the like word, and if they felt they needed to say it, PAUSE instead. Ditto for umm — don’t say it, just stop, think about what you’re going to say, and then say it.

Although the subsequent conversation was peppered with a few likes (and a few you knows, umms, and a LOT of pauses), the exercise had its effect. They both (even You-Know) decreased the frequency of all three terms, and I truly believe they left with a keen awareness of the importance of effective communication — particularly for business communication.

I have since attempted to increase the awareness of my clients, as well, as great presentations can often be the difference between getting funded or getting ignored.

Like, you know? I think you, umm, do…

Mark Long has long experienced the intricacies of business incubation, acceleration, coworking spaces, makerspaces and other entrepreneurial assistance venues around the world. He shares his experience, outlook, background knowledge, studies, and observations in regular posts at the IncubatorBlogger. Feel free to follow him there — or follow him and UF Innovate right here.

University of Florida Innovate supports an innovation ecosystem that moves research discoveries from the laboratory to the market, fostering a resilient economy and making the world a better place. Based at one of the nation’s leading research institutions, UF Innovate comprises four organizations: Tech Licensing, Ventures and two business incubators, Sid Martin Biotech and The Hub. Within the UF Office of Research, the three organizations form a comprehensive system to take technologies from the lab to the public, bringing together the five critical elements in the “innovation ecosystem”: facilities, capital, management talent, intellectual property and technology-transfer expertise.

Originally published at http://incubatorblogger.wordpress.com on October 24, 2019.

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