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Daniel Doubrovkine

aka dB., @awscloud, former CTO @artsy, +@vestris, NYC

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I had a telecom professor in college that said “Euuuuh” every other word during lectures. It was impossible not to notice, and I couldn’t focus on the content anymore. So I counted the “Euuuuh”’s to pass time. The record sat around 150 “Euuuuh” per hour.

Fast forward to 2020. My speaking and writing have both significantly improved since I joined AWS. I am more concise, making arguments in fewer words. I’ve worked hard on replacing opinions with data. But while I have made progress, I’ve also become more allergic to the worst offenders in weasel and filler words in conversations with fellow Engineers, starting with “like”.

At 33% this spline is, like, poorly reticulated.

I’m fuming. Instinctively, I start counting the “likes”. I no longer pay attention to the content.

So how do you tell an otherwise very competent Engineer to avoid saying “like”? Just telling them has not always been effective - they quickly agree, try to swipe it under the rug, and do it again. Thus, I devised a better approach.

People that say like a lot will do it often. I choose to wait for a particularly successful meeting that the individual runs, compliment the content presented, and recommend an improvement around public speaking that is not exclusively centered on the weasel or filler word itself, explain why, and offer myself up as a former public offender.

I thought you did a great job with the document presented yesterday at office hours. The design was at the right abstraction level, and was super clear. This was a multi-dimensional, complex problem, and you did a tremendous job spelling out the technical options for the group with well-researched supporting data. The solution you came up with was solid.

I wanted to give you feedback to help you deliver such excellent content better. I recommend working on improving your public speaking in the following areas: 1) you should be able to speak with a lot more confidence 2) you really, really need to cut filler words such as “like” out. The last one is really dumb, but important. Every time you add “like”, you dilute an otherwise on-point message.

I had the same problem, too. What helped was to write the word “like” on a piece of paper and stick it on my monitor to remind myself not to say it during meetings.

Hope this helps!

So far I’ve sent a version of this advice to a dozen people. Everyone responded positively. I have noticed a lot of progress in the team to weed “likes” out. I really like it!