If you've ever been accused of not being eloquent because you use words such as "I mean" and "you know" while talking, you may now rejoice! A new study suggests that employing these verbal tics means that you're a thoughtful and conscientious person who cares about the honesty of your speech.
Sure, it can be annoying when you're trying to have a conversation with another adult and you begin to start counting the number of times the words "like" and "literally" have been used, but you need to consider what the person is actually trying to accomplish. Instead of telling you that what they're spewing out of their mouth hole is 100% unadulterated truth about their visit to the mall (I love visiting malls so this is what I would be talking about), they're letting you know that there are some details that have been removed, either because they're not completely honest (who can recall everything?) or because they might just be superfluous. These little tics are real life "TL;DR"s and if having to listen to someone say "uh" five times in a row means that I don't have to listen to a 40 minute account of Point Break, I am all for it. (Yes, this happened. My partner and I were supposed to go see a midnight showing of the movie and he gave me a scene by scene breakdown of the entire thing with sound effects.) (I did not ask for sound effects! I just wanted to know what it was about!)
The study, titled Um … Who Like Says You Know: Filler Word Use as a Function of Age, Gender and Personality comes from The University Of Texas and aims to decipher how filled pauses (um, uh) and discourse markers (I mean, like, you know) vary with two basic demographics: Age and gender.
The researchers found that these discourse markers pauses were employed more often by women and girls, but they also found that these types of verbal tics were also more common among those who scored high on conscientiousness on a personality inventory. What that suggests (not proves) is that those who use these words and phrases aren't unable to hold a conversation or gather their thoughts, but that they are more likely to be empathetic and care about their listener.
The researchers believe the explanation is that "conscientious people are generally more thoughtful and aware of themselves and their surroundings," and their use of discourse markers shows they have a "desire to share or rephrase opinions to recipients." Stated slightly differently, discourse fillers are a sign of more considered speech, and so it makes sense that conscientious people use them more often.
Of course because this study must be replicated and revised, it's too early to start forcing these kinds of discourse markers into your conversations if they're not already there, but it's something interesting to think about the next time you're having a conversation and start getting annoyed. Remember, there could be so much more your conversation partner could be telling you.
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