The Problem With Starting a Sentence With “I Feel Like…"

In her New York Times op-ed piece "Stop Saying ‘I Feel Like,'" assistant professor Molly Worthen makes the argument that beginning statements with "I feel like…" is much more than just a harmless tic. What it does is make your point ambiguous. You've preemptively shut down the possibility that you're wrong—because you're not talking about fact, you're talking about feeling.

"Listen for this phrase and you’ll hear it everywhere, inside and outside politics. This reflex to hedge every statement as a feeling or a hunch is most common among millennials. But I hear it almost as often among Generation Xers and my own colleagues in academia. As in so many things, the young are early carriers of broad cultural contagion."

Molly speaks to students, professors, and historians to make her case against "feeling like" anything. Historian Elizabeth Lasch-Quinn says"It’s a way of deflecting, avoiding full engagement with another person or group, because it puts a shield up immediately. You cannot disagree."

When I saw the headline, my instinct was to defend feelings. But I think Molly has a point. " ‘I feel like’ masquerades as a humble conversational offering, an invitation to share your feelings, too," she writes. "But the phrase is an absolutist trump card. It halts argument in its tracks."

I think that there is, and should be, a difference between actual feeling and using feelings as a way to buffer yourself when you're not ready to commit to an opinion or an argument. But I'm not sure I'm fully on board with the throw-out-"I feel"-train she's on. And that's because these types of stories in general upset me. Why does it seem like every time there is a piece criticizing an evolution of the English language, it's related to something associated with the way young women speak? You know, like, um, my vocal fry?

I feel like we need to stop criticizing the way women speak.