So thought-terminating clichés, what are they? Coined in a book called “Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism,” a book written in 1956 about brainwashing in China,

A thought-terminating cliché is a commonly used phrase, sometimes passing as folk wisdom, used to quell cognitive dissonance. Though the phrase in and of itself may be valid in certain contexts, its application as a means of dismissing dissent or justifying fallacious logic is what makes it thought-terminating.

Kind of like mosquitoes, thought terminating cliches are everywhere.

For example, I used to have a martial arts teacher who would tell us, “Well, that’s just your ego talking.” anytime that anyone disagreed with him. So that made me think I was wrong for disagreeing with him, and shut me up for awhile. Until one day I got tired of always being wrong, and left.

When I read the notes that I took from those days, I think, “Wow. he was just talking out of his head most of the time.” But at the time, that was a thought stopping cliche for me.

Another thought stopping cliche that plagues us in the nonprofit sector is: “Nonprofits should have small overheads.”

Or how about: “nonprofit staff should never make a mistake”

Or “Nonprofits should never spend money on marketing” OR ‘Nonprofit staff should be poorly paid’

OR “Nonprofits should never ask for grants for operating money, but only for projects.”

WHY is it this way?

If you find yourself in a thought-stopping cliche, ask yourself, “Hold on. Is this true? Why do I think this?”
How can we overcome thought stopping cliches?

Other thought-stopping cliches I’ve noticed are:

“The Customer Is Always Right”

“Think outside the box”

“Once an alcoholic always an alcoholic.”

“Don’t drink, don’t think and go to meetings.”

“Taxation is theft”

If you want to see which method people are using on you to try to convince you they are right, check this out.

Another thing that might interest you as a professional fundraiser or marketer is to consider how you use thought-stopping cliches in your appeals and in your persuasive writing.

What cliches automatically make people give to you? What cliches make people NOT want to give to you?