I was going to write a long post about how I've noticed that people have been using "sort of" in their speech more often, such as hearing in a discussion or panel, "Tell us what you think of your experience and how it sort of affected your views." It's like people want to be polite and evasive instead of speaking in a straightforward manner.
Then I found a thorough analysis which includes the declaration, "Using 'kind of/sort of' allows a speaker to moderate their statements and build in some vagueness and wiggle room. It’s a way to hedge one’s bets should someone take offense or question what’s been said."
That makes sense. It's a kind of softening statement. I also hear it in corporate meetings, organizational discussions, etc. I'm not saying it should never be used, because I've also been in meetings where someone was arguing and falsely accusing people, offending people while getting a pass for their vitriolic expressions. I'd rather hear "sort of" than scorched-earth yelling, where the speaker does not acknowledge or respect others' humanity.
And btw--I started saying "like" a lot in the past decade because I don't always want to appear blunt. So if I'm saying something, I might slow down and add "like" to cushion my words and make me seem less assertive. I really shouldn't do that and should just be who I am, but I deal with different kinds of people so I sometimes attempt to soften my delivery. Which probably doesn't work anyway because it doesn't sound too intelligent [n]or eloquent.