Every generation has words and phrases they spew faster than they can twitch. For millennials, “I feel like” is certainly on the list, if not at the absolute top. If you haven’t trimmed the sequence from your vocabulary, be advised: Drop it and you’ll instantly sound significantly smarter. These are the top reasons why.
1. You demean the other person’s ability to handle potential conflict.
Psychologists adore “I” statements in part because they force you to take some ownership of your thoughts and feelings. But psychologists also like “I feel like” under the premise that it’s less accusatory and thus has the potential to diffuse conflict. But conflict in itself is not problematic. It’s the inability to react to the conflict in a respectful, rational way that’s the issue. Using the phrase “I feel like” presumes that your conversation partner cannot respond with decorum, which insults their maturity. Even if the person you’re talking to has some room to grow, they won’t get the practice in civil engagement if there’s never a conflict to navigate.
2. It gives you an out.
“I feel like” can stand in for “I think”. But because we’ve been taught that the words are also apologetic and disarming, using “I feel like” as an introductory phrase also demonstrates an effort to make your ideas more palatable. Rather than state what you believe with real confidence and authority, you push the idea that it’s OK to disregard what you say if it seems offensive, difficult or not in line with the majority.
3. It’s verbose.
There are few times you actually need “I feel like” to communicate your point. For example,
- “I feel like this is too big.” = “This is too big.”
- “I feel like we’re running out of time.” = “We’re running out of time.”
- “I feel like he’s the best candidate.” = “He’s the best candidate.”
- “I feel like I let you down and I’m sorry.” = “I let you down. I’m sorry.”
Pro tip: Imagine you’re writing what you say. Don’t be afraid to pause if the extra time to think and strike through brings you conciseness and clarity.
4. It’s not all about you.
“I” statements like “I feel like” by definition put the emphasis on you. That can be appropriate, such as if you honestly want to use comparatives to describe what you’re experiencing (e.g., “I feel like a hippo on a tightrope with this project”). But you are not the business. Everyone is. If all you do all the time is shift attention to yourself, you’ll come off as self-absorbed, disconnected and insensitive to the needs and ideas of those around you. Over time, that can create the very tension and conflict you hope to avoid.
5. It pushes aside fact.
Feelings and empathy play big roles in business, such as when you trust your gut on a decision or take a moment to comfort an upset member of your team. From that standpoint, emotion matters. But a phrase like “I feel like” can rob you of the specificity that could be more persuasive. For example, instead of saying “I feel like this could jeopardize our budget,” give the why and say something like, “We need a return of x percent, but the average return on these case studies is only y.”
Your speech doesn’t have to be perfect. We’re human. But eliminating even one poorly or overly used phrase like “I feel like” does wonders for your efficiency and credibility. Start with this one, and then, if you’re feeling saucy, take a crack at these, too.