Beware of Clichés and Sound Bites

After reading Ken Faw’s post on We can’t afford to hide out, I commented about how my upbringing may have played a role in my natural tendencies to be quiet, listen and be respectful. The specific phrase I wrote in the comment was “Seen and not heard”. I’ve been thinking a lot about that phrase lately and how accepting cliché’s and sound bites without thinking through what they mean to us personally is very dangerous. Let me explain.

Cliché’s and sound bites are created to be easily remembered and overtime become overused. They sound good and because you have heard the same expression repeatedly and have grown to accept it without thinking. And therein lies the problem – accepting something without really thinking about it.

As I started thinking about “Seen and not heard” it occurred to me that this phrase is only powerful in certain situations. For young children in a serious, grown up places like a religious service or funeral, it makes sense for kids to be “Seen and not heard”. On the other hand, for adults to be “Seen and not heard” in a business setting is not good if they want to show up to their bosses and colleagues as valuable to their organizations.

When you are working with people in a business setting, you are compensated for your skills and knowledge that you bring to an organization. So speaking is an obligation or duty you have as an employee or colleague to contribute to make the business more effective, productive and profitable. This doesn’t mean rambling on without purpose, it means that when you have something to say speak up.

What other cliché’s have you accepted without thinking about them? How do you think about them now?

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2 Responses to Beware of Clichés and Sound Bites

  1. Ken says:

    Thanks for the post. While you asked us for cliches we have encountered, I was triggered strongly by your main theme. I cannot think of any context where “seen and not heard” is powerful as a posture. Choosing to speak or not to speak is a powerful move, but “seen and not heard” suggests an anti-social orientation or world-view that suppresses engaging. I could see it being interpreted that way, anyway.

  2. Rick Ross says:

    I appreciate your comment and thinking about “seen and not heard” being an anti-social world-view that is not or is never powerful. The way I am triggered is that an anti-social orientation implies that your intentions or purposes are to avoid contributing, which will most likely be interpreted as threat(s) of not wanting to help and will eventually result in being asked or forced to leave.

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