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Next Level Relationships



We communicate in cliches for a myriad of reasons. Some of

these reasons are simple and valid, while others are

tremendously complex.


The simplest and most valid reason is that cliches are powerful

in helping us make initial connections with people and in helping

us to maintain a connection with people at a certain level. Asking

someone, “How are you?” is perhaps the simplest and most common

way to begin a conversation. Making that person feel that you

are actually interested in hearing the answer is the key to intimacy.

Let’s face it, when most people ask, “How are you?” they are just

being polite and they expect you to reply in cliche form by saying,

“Fine!” or “Great!” Cliches are great conversation starters, but if

they don’t lead anywhere over time they become shallow and superficial,

and they fail to quench our thirst for intimacy.


At the same time, a cliche can be used to kill a conversation.

Those who are indifferent, selfish, or afraid become experts at employing

the cliche to destroy any chance of meaningful communication.

For example, a wife may ask her husband, “What did you

think of what happened in Europe today?” and he replies, “It is

what it is!” Another example might be a father trying to begin a

discussion with his teenage child by asking, “Do you still feel like

you can come and talk to your mother and me?” The child replies,

“Whatever!” On paper these conversations seem harsh and rude,

but they are becoming commonplace in more and more relationships

that are perceived by the outside world as being functioning,

healthy, and normal. I assure you, such exchanges are anything but

functioning, healthy, and normal. They are a sign of deeply fractured

relationships that are desperately in need of attention.


The young people of today have perfected this form of communication

and transmuted it into a form of noncommunication,

with the creation of cliches such as “ What’s up?” and “Whatever!”

It is also interesting to note that teens usually use cliches to avoid

deeper levels of communication with the adults in their lives, and

that they communicate very differently with friends within their

peer group.


Why do so many teenagers communicate in this way with

most of the adults in their life? Sometimes it is because they feel

that if they do communicate in any meaningful way they will be

judged or criticized. They sense that they will not be accepted for

who they are. Perhaps they communicate in this way because they

feel that nobody understands them, and most are unwilling to try.

Others may resort to the constant use of cliches to communicate

because they believe (consciously or subconsciously) that everything

within them is worthless and pathetic. Some are lazy and indifferent

to others. Still others are so completely self - absorbed that

they find communicating with others to be boring and a waste of

time.


The reasons adults have are startlingly similar. We are afraid of

being judged and criticized. We sense that we are not accepted and

are afraid of being rejected. We feel that nobody understands us

and that most people are more interested in being understood

themselves than they are in trying to understand us. Secretly we all

carry with us a shame, and at times believe that we are worthless

and pathetic. We are lazy. We are indifferent. We are self - absorbed.

Cliches are safe. We cling to them for that reason. But when

they are overused in a relationship that deserves to enjoy greater

depth of intimacy, cliches keep us at arm’s length from the one

thing we cannot live happily without.


Matthew Kelly

From The Seven Levels of Intimacy

Click Here to get your copy

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