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Why I Don’t Use Clichés and Buzzwords

One of the principles I live by is to not speak using clichés and buzzwords. The definition of the word cliché itself will give you an idea of why effective speakers and savvy writers avoid them. A cliché is something that’s become so overused that it has lost its ingenuity and impact. And as a leader, speaker or a writer, making an impact and being original makes all the difference in your work and performance.

Buzzwords, similar to clichés, are also becoming an enemy of effective communication in the workplace. This is why I’m choosing to share with you some of the reasons why we shouldn’t use clichés and buzzwords, and what we should do instead.

Why I Avoid Using Clichés

I don’t use clichés because I want my message to have an impact. 

When delivering a speech, coaching or conducting training, your goal is for your listeners to take away something useful for them to apply in their professional or personal lives. It has to be impactful, and using clichés does the opposite. 

When people hear a cliché, they already have an assumed opinion about what that information means to them, so they either lose interest in what is being said or simply take it as a good reminder. It doesn’t make people think nor does it stir up any emotion that will spur them to take action immediately.

Avoiding clichés is more important now than ever. According to a study conducted by the Technical University of Denmark, collective attention spans are getting shorter due to the abundance of information presented to us at all times. 

A lot of information competes for people’s attention. If you want to engage people and hold their fleeting attention, you want to be anything but commonplace. Clichés can cause listeners to skip every other thing you say. You won’t be able to hold their attention long enough to actually make an impact, your message loses its meaning and, as a result, you fail to make an impact.

I don’t use clichés because I want to encourage people—myself included—to really think for themselves.

We have to be cautious about using clichés and getting used to regurgitating what other people say. When you use clichés in the workplace, you are not encouraging your people to think for themselves. And when people don’t think for themselves, they don’t take it seriously, and ultimately won’t apply what they learn. It’s as good as not having any discussion at all.

As a leader, you want to encourage your people to use original language. You can do this by asking questions such as:

  • What are you actually trying to say?
  • If you could rephrase it in a different way, what would it be?
  • Can you be more specific?
  • Can you say that to me in a different way?

These questions will help you get better answers and also get your people thinking about the message they’re trying to convey. It will make them see the power of their words. And it will make them care more too. When you hear a message that means something to you, you’re more likely to apply what you learn.

Why I Avoid Using Buzzwords

Diversity. Synergy. Pivot. Bandwidth. New Normal. 

These are just a few of the buzzwords that people are using in business to attract attention, boost morale and describe cultural and social situations. The purpose of buzzwords is meant to be positive, but oftentimes they prove to be detrimental instead.

TrustRadius conducted a survey on the most annoying buzzwords in 2021, and a clear theme emerged: The buzzwords on the list are so generic and used so broadly that it’s impossible to know what these terms really mean. 

Buzzwords are nouns. When you speak about buzzwords as nouns, you’re lumping a bunch of things together and generalizing them into one topic. By generalizing all these things into one noun, you inevitably make incorrect assumptions about that buzzword. For example, companies saying they should (or should not) hire for culture fit. But what does culture fit actually mean? 

When you say “culture fit,” what are you really trying to say? Can you be more specific? Once you have shared a clear understanding of what it is, you can now have a discussion about what it means to your team. Usually, what we find is that buzzwords have a lot of overlap, and they don’t necessarily disagree. This is why we need to get past buzzwords: only then can we actually start having constructive conversations. 

In a world full of abundant information, we often find it hard to determine who we should trust or consider reputable. Original language—avoiding clichés and buzzwords—will make you stand out and become more trustworthy. Making our world more human involves being a human. Be yourself: that’s your superpower.

In love and respect,

Hilary Corna

Hilary Corna

Bestselling Author, Keynote Speaker, Podcast Host, Founder of the Human Way ™...

Hilary’s favorite title is HUMAN.


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