Love them or loathe them, clichés make the world go round. In fact, without clichés, which started out as useful bits of advice, we might not be able to quickly put thoughts into words that everyone understands.
For instance, when someone suggests that you shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater, native English speakers automatically make the association. They know the cliché is code for not scrapping all of something just because a part of it has lost its usefulness. And that's not the only cliché that can be beneficial to your communication.
Odds are you use common phrases and imagery often at work. And you know what? You should feel just fine about that. Certain clichés simply make sense in the corporate world, even if hearers take what you say with a grain of salt.
Unimportant cliché? Hardly.
The next time you're ready to jettison clichés from your everyday vocabulary, hold on a minute. Some clichés contain more than a few tidbits of valuable guidance.
1. "Honesty is the best policy."
While this may be a cliché, Gallery Kitchen & Bath, an interior design and build contractor, has seen success from keeping this axiom at the core of its customer service strategy. Aaron Popowsky, Gallery's CEO, who founded the company after more than 15 years of customer service experience, often explains to customers that open communication and honesty are key. "If a customer is not happy with an idea, then we encourage them to be up-front. Ultimately, this is their home that they will be living in, and they need to be fully comfortable and happy with the product," he says.
Like Popowsky, you can give clients and employees permission to tell you when they aren't happy. If they know from the first that you're not afraid to hear the truth, your relationship will grow tremendously.
2. "Time is money."
Many people say they value their time, but they often forget to treat it as carefully as they do their money. For instance, you could create a budget specifically for your work hours to make sure you're spending that time in the most efficient way you can. That could mean learning to say no to projects that put you into "overdraft," just as you would say no to a big purchase that would push your bank account into the red.
In addition, when was the last time you blocked out sections of your calendar so you could do something you enjoy? We shouldn't feel guilty for saying "no" to spending our time in certain ways -- after all, it's a finite commodity. Treat your weekly hours as gold. Is there something you've wanted to do but can't seem to "find" the time? Budget the time instead, just as you would set money aside for a product or service.
3. "Think outside the box."
This recommendation may sound overused and trite, but creativity and innovation are never wasted efforts. For instance, Dan Price, founder of credit card processor Gravity Payments, thought outside the box when he cut his own salary down to $70,000 in an effort to raise the minimum salary at the company to $70,000 over three years. He did this after a study brought to light the fact that CEOs are taking much larger raises than they are giving to employees.
As Price's example shows, this cliché can nudge you out of your comfort zone. The trick is to understand how to get better at learning new ways of solving problems. Do you always count on your sales team to come up with new selling campaigns? Try gathering your engineers for some brainstorming from another perspective. You never know what's possible until you make room for the impossible to happen.
The next time you feel like using a cliché, don't automatically bite your tongue. And when you hear a colleague or friend make a statement your grandmother would have understood, think twice about the meaning. You may just find that it offers powerful insights into how you can improve your on-the-job practices, processes, and performance.