It is what it is—clichés are this B2B marketer’s cup of tea
The other day, an infographic bashing business clichés made its way into my inbox. I related, I laughed and then I furrowed my brow and thought “Hey, not so fast…”
See, Monday to Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., you can find me pinballing around StudioNorth from one conversation to the next – receiving and relaying messages that occasionally leave me looking like a deer in headlights.
It’s these moments when those soft little sayings we call clichés swoop in and save the day.
DO CLICHÉS DESERVE THEIR BAD REP?
In a world that values innovation, novelty, and progression, I get why clichés have a bad rep. Phrases that have been washed, rinsed and repeated a few too many times feel outdated and meaningless.
But I’m here to breathe some life back into these tired sayings and give credit where credit is due.
First of all, respect your elders—the clichés we love to hate have probably been around longer than we have. And there’s something to say for phrases that have withstood the test of time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a millennial and I love our trendy lingo; but 50 years from now, I don’t think we’ll be hearing CFOs claim their budget plans are on fleek.
CLICHÉS SOFTEN THE BLOW
The real reason to respect clichés is they help us deliver otherwise dull or unpleasant statements in a delicate, metaphorical, and slightly-obscure-so-no-one-realizes-what-we’re-really-trying-to-say way.
In other words, they soften the blow and enliven the conversion.
For those of us in the professional people-pleasing business, clichés provide protection from confrontation and negativity. They’re friendly phrases that swerve around any demanding or insensitive overtones:
|Tactful Cliché||Indelicate Alternative|
|Can you hit the ground running?||Can you start working? Like, now?|
|It is what it is.||Accept it and move on.|
|Bite the bullet.||Just do it. (Only Nike can pull that off.)|
|Take this offline.||Discuss on your own time.|
|Let’s circle back.||Let’s talk about this later.|
|There are too many cooks in the kitchen.||Fewer of you should be involved.|
|Better safe than sorry.||This is not the time to take risks.|
|Let’s play it by ear.||I’d rather not commit to anything.|
|It’s on my radar.||I am aware that it exists.|
|Let’s not open a can of worms.||That will cause more problems for us.|
|Cross that bridge when we come to it.||No point in spending time on that now.|
Are the alternate phrases more direct? Yes. Do they leave any room for confusion? No. But as a project manager, if I talked to my colleagues or clients like that, I’d have to scratch “maintains good work relationships” off my resume.
HANDLE CLICHÉS WITH KID GLOVES
That said, I’m a firm believer there’s a time and a place for clichés.
Some situations demand blunt, direct, straight-no-chaser language. Remember, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.
No one wants to hear “there’s been a paradigm shift” when the simple fact is they’re losing money. If you have to start something over, you don’t feel any better if you call it “going back to the drawing board.” And if you mess up big time, a straightforward admission of your fault and your willingness to improve will go a lot further than declaring “nobody’s perfect!”
Occasionally, you just have to face the music.
CLICHÉS HAVE MY BACK
Sure, clichés are cheesy and overused, but they wouldn’t be used so much if they weren’t good for something.
As a full-time talker, I spend enough time trying to figure out the perfect thing to say. When the well runs dry, clichés have my back and that’s why they are my cup of tea.
Melissa earned a degree in Journalism & Strategic Communication from the University of Wisconsin before joining StudioNorth as a Project Manager. When she's not zipping from one office to the next, while simultaneously replying to your email, she enjoys rooftop brunches and taking selfies with her golden retriever, Lambeau.