What is a NPC?
An NPC is a non-playable character within video games that are incapable of internal monologue and resort to limited catchphrases/scripted dialogue as communication. (source)
What is a common cliché?
A phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays lack of original thought. (source)
Would you like to know if people around you possess original thought?
Would you like to avoid being an NPC meme?
Common Clichés Are Too Common
Common Clichés are the epitome of regurgitated, mindless filler.
The go-to for the foolish feigning wisdom. The instrument of the empty-headed. The utensil of risk-averse normalcy.
Don’t have anything to say?
Nobody can argue it’s wrong.
These sayings endured for some time. Due to that time, it became stale and overused.
Their initial purpose was to paint imagery and stimulate the imagination. Now they are conversational filler to eat time (speaking of which, are there new clichés? Are we still relying on decades-old trite?).
What is a common cliché?
An idea that becomes overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, and reaches irritability.
Once novel becomes aggravating.
Once striking becomes conventionalized for simple usage.
Often found in writing and language, clichés once provided an alternative avenue of expression depicting the abstract.
Unfortunately, abstraction faded and its leftover husk is picked clean by the mainstream.
There was a need to simplify complex, thought processes into memorable ideas. Thus, came generalized sayings.
Then, It gets run into the ground AND we forget the lessons behind the sayings.
Thankfully, it’s not as widespread as adverbs, but people whip clichés like baseball pitchers with fastballs.
Are they trying to render me brain-dead?
If I have to hear “give 110%: one more time, I’ll have to give my eye-roll 110% because that indicates unoriginal thought… or laziness.
Either is a detriment to your character. People judge your fashion sense, your posture, your mannerisms, why not your language?
This leads to a question: Why do people use common clichés?
They want to avoid antagonism with their presumptions. Explanation and expansion of ideas risk criticism and deconstruction.
What better way of avoiding that than widely accepted generalizations.
They play it safe at the cost of originality.
People fall back on these tired tropes, as if to invoke invulnerability, when they fail to make a convincing argument.
This is laziness.
This is the easy way out.
Some blame falls upon the education system.
After all, conversation is the synergy of meanings(words) to create a new one.
There’s little focus on creativity. There’s little focus on shifting paradigms.
There is only an out-dated regiment which focuses more on rote than critical thinking. Is it a surprise people are willing to fall back on common clichés?
To be fair, I condemn higher education also. Specializing means learning jargon and vernacular of your field.
Reciting platitudes may be a short-cut to explain complicated topics, but it never dissects the logic behind its conception.
Here’s a cliché example I remember from my investing class in university:
“Buy low, sell high.”
You can see where I’m going with this.
Sure, the pinnacle of investing is to purchase undervalued assets and profit off a rise in price.
The next question is: What is (the) low and how can I know?
Those 3 questions took several years -between courses- to understand.
To be honest, I still don’t know.
Judging by the number of firms failing to produce a return above the S&P500, I guess they don’t know either.
Even experienced professionals regurgitate trite; thus, it becomes meaningless.
Somehow, it made its way mainstream.
Now, I get to hear average joes, who can’t navigate a Bloomberg terminal, act like they’re Warren Buffet’s protégé.
I guarantee the general public can’t explain the details of that idea.
However, the cliché is simple to understand and easy for the unaware to misinterpret.
Now, everyone is an MBA graduate trying to impress upper management.
They regurgitate a script, like an npc.
“The reason that clichés become clichés is that they are the hammers and screwdrivers in the toolbox of communication.”
How Not To Be An NPC Meme
Avoiding clichés is no easy task, especially after a lifetime of usage.
I came across 2 solutions while working on this problem. The first one is to use quotes instead.
A step-up from tired clichés are quotes or aphorisms from well-known, historical figures with influence.
I consider it a step-up because there needs to be research.
Through research, you have found an eloquent method of expressing your thoughts.
It shows you possess some curiosity and intelligence to find these ideas and analyze its significance.
Context is as important as its meaning. If you need help explaining a topic, use quotes as support, not as the main argument.
Using quotes from historical figures may return confused looks, and require an explanation.
You must understand the meaning behind the quote and also its usage in context. That means to explain how the quote pertains to the situation.
You can’t blurt random quotes all the time or everybody will label you a smart-ass.
If you provide an explanation for your position and incorporate quotes, you will appear reputable.
Just don’t provide quotes every time you speak. Don’t be a walking encyclopedia, another form of the npc meme.
I prefer this method because it is the purest distillation of your thoughts.
Your position will stand on its own merit rather than piggy-backing off others.
Instead of using clichés or quotes, incorporate the 5Ws and H in your explanation:
Use whatever is relevant to the context. There will be less misunderstandings and misinterpretations. You sharpen your mind because your thoughts are yours and must defend them. Here are some relevant examples:
“We’re going to give it 110%.”
“Our plan is to build an e-mail marketing campaign which will entice 10% of the views into subscribing.”
“That’s the million dollar question.”
“There are many unknown variables. For example….”
“We’ve got to play hardball with them.”
“We can take advantage of our leverage by squeezing their supply chain.”
Don’t hide behind old sayings. Elaborate and provide insight into the undefined. That way, you can avoid the NPC pitfall.
Flipping The Script
Small Talk vs Deep Talk
If the conversation stays in small talk territory, it’s acceptable to use clichés here and there.
Clichés are canned responses re-purposed for generic interactions. For example, if your friend eats unhealthy food, drop the “apple a day keeps the doctor away” cliché and your friend will understand the inference. If this were an intervention (deep talk), you would delve into the 5Ws and H:
“Your family and friends worry about your health.”
“You have been eating nothing but instant noodles and drinking soda for weeks.”
“Your atrocious eating habits will kill you before 40.”
“These stores provide healthier alternatives.”
“Cut back on your snacks after dinner.”
You can use this for small talk but keep it short and relevant (pick the most important Ws). Listeners don’t have the time nor patience in this scenario.
Don’t Berate Others For Using Clichés
If you hear others using common clichés, don’t ostracize them.
It is detrimental to call them out. Not everyone will possess the social understanding you have. You would embarrass them and create negative feelings.
This is about improving yourself, not others. You can’t teach those that don’t wish to learn.
Clichés Are Too Cliché
I may have been harsh in my condemnation of clichés.
However, I stand by my position.
There is no need for them.
They are relics of previous centuries for ideals of past generations.
You still hear them because people try to reconcile previous knowledge with modern era’s paradigm.
NPCs use them as substitute for thought.
Thus, avoid clichés.
Explain your position: Use real examples, real concepts, real ideas.
Explain yourself like a real person should.
Liberate yourself from the NPC mindset.
Before ending, I would like to ask: What was the most annoying cliché you’ve heard?
Leave a comment down below.
And check out our Youtube channel for examples of conversational techniques and language analysis.
“It is a cliche that most cliches are true, but then like most cliches, that cliche is untrue.”