People Who Say ‘Like’ All the Time Are Surprisingly Thoughtful

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Photo: Paramount Pictures

Say you meet someone new whose speech is peppered with likes and you knows and I means. Chances are, your first impression of this new person will not be a great one. We tend to associate likes and you knows with airheads and Valley Girls, not thoughtfulness. But new research is suggesting that we may have that backwards, because people who use a lot of “filler speech” actually tend to be more conscientious.

The researchers explain their findings, published recently in The Journal of Language and Social Psychology:

The possible explanation for this association is that conscientious people are generally more thoughtful and aware of themselves and their surroundings. When having conversations with listeners, conscientious people use discourse markers, such as ‘I mean’ and ‘you know,’ to imply their desire to share or rephrase opinions to recipients. Thus it is expected that the use of discourse markers may be used to measure the degree to which people have thoughts to express.

In other words, this is a person who is truly paying attention, to you and the conversation at hand. Conscientious people are careful, diligent individuals who are very concerned with doing things correctly — including, apparently, idle chitchat. As psychologist Christian Jarrett writes, “discourse fillers are a sign of more considered speech, and so it makes sense that conscientious people use them more often.” The study authors go on to suggest that this could be a quick but accurate way to size up the personality of someone you’ve just met. I mean, it’s a sign of being a thoughtful, hard-working type, you know?