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Is Our Communication becoming a Collection of Clichés?

Eloquence in language happens in your heart. –Rumi, The Rose

The definition of cliché seems to have lost its meaning. Anton C. Zijderveld, a Dutch sociologist, offers some illuminating insights on clichés and what they can and cannot offer. “A cliché is a traditional form of human expression (in words, thoughts, emotions, gestures, acts) which – due to repetitive use in social life – has lost its original, often ingenious heuristic power. Although it thus fails positively to contribute meaning to social interactions and communication, it does function socially, since it manages to stimulate behavior (cognition, emotion, volition, action), while it avoids reflection on meanings.”

The value of exploring the actual meaning of our words, thoughts, and even our actions makes for deeper understanding of our self and contributes to the depth of our relationships with the people we care for in our lives. At times though, life can feel and sound like a litany of clichés, which creates a loss in the quality of deeper thoughts, feelings, and even meaning of the experience we share with others.

An example: While sharing dinner, a man says to a woman whom he recently met and likes, “I’ve been around the block.”

Instead of being put off, she asks him to describe what that means to him and he responds, “I have loved women and been hurt many times. I am ready to love and be happy and I am looking at the woman that I want that with.” 

This is heartfelt and honest communication with a different meaning than cliché. The woman responded to his words with more understanding. This is why being aware of clichés are important; it allows a person to see the depth of communication that lies underneath.

Next time you hear or use a cliché, make a shift toward more vulnerability. Allow the words instead to come from your heart. You will experience a world of difference when speaking your own honest feelings rather than a rote expression. This is a wonderful practice for improving communication with people in your life. 

Communication seems to be one of the most popular reasons for couples seeking therapy. Be mindful of clichés and ask yourself and others to speak from their heart and see what transforms.