Cliches, Soundbites and Pithy Grabbers – Beware

Even for the vast majority of us who are not “broadcast” when we preach, there is still a temptation to achieve good soundbites. On one hand, this is not too far from the goal of having a single sentence summary statement, a big idea, a main idea, a proposition, a take-home truth or whatever you call it. The condensed nature of a single sentence aids the unity of the message, the effectiveness of communication and the memorability of the important core of the message. On the other hand, too many soundbites, cliches or pithy grabbers can be very detrimental.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who only seems to speak in cliches? I’ve had the privilege a couple of times. It doesn’t take long before you don’t feel that they are actually in a conversation with you. It soon feels like they are looking for the next opportunity to role out one of their catchphrases. Despite your best efforts, you can’t help but suspect a lack of authenticity.

The effect created in a couple of minutes of conversation with a “soundbiter” is just a rapid version of listening to a “soundbiter” preaching. After the positive effects wear off, it doesn’t feel like they’re talking to you. It feels pre-packaged, inauthentic, fake.

It’s good to have principles that you live by and lead by, it’s good to be a clear communicator who is memorable, catchy, pithy and precise. However, you can have too much of a good thing. Don’t put your listeners through endless concatenations of cliches when you’re preaching. Even when you’re not preaching, in other leadership communication, don’t rely too heavily on soundbites. Listeners and followers would rather know you are authentic (communicated via natural style), than the king of cliche.

One thought on “Cliches, Soundbites and Pithy Grabbers – Beware

  1. A good book that I can recommend to people who want to have a first approach to reflective faith: “Questions to all your answers” by Roger E. Olson (Zondervan). The author chose 10 cliches and takes the reader into a journey to honestly examine them. I read it recently and was pleased with how the author approaches the subject with love for God and for His people while looking for the truth with no compromise.

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