Encouraging the platitudes

Reading time: 2 mins

I mentioned platitudes yesterday, and my dislike of them. Of course with hindsight being 20:20 I realise that I wasn’t actually talking about platitudes…

Now, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, a platitude is: “A trite or banal remark or statement, especially one expressed as if it were original or significant”.

With that in mind, can platitudes be worthwhile? Can they offer solace during times of trouble? From that definition I guess not, but to my mind the definition is possibly dated or, as is more likely, it’s my understanding of what a platitude is, that is the problem.

It was pointed out to me that “As for the nature of the platitudes themselves – some are worthwhile, some aren’t. But I think it’s more about the fact that we can be bothered to say them.” The presumption here, of course, is that the platitude being offered is a positive one.

So let’s blur the lines a little. When is a platitude not a platitude? When it’s an encouragement!

Is this not what we mean? Those little phrases we repeat, sentiments flung about when required, uttered in the hope that they may make a difference. Are these not encouragements? Goodness knows they are meant, and that they are offered with the realisation that, whilst they won’t make any difference to the predicament, they do contain an unspoken message: “I’m sorry for your situation and I wish I could do something to help. Instead know that I am here to be leaned on, to listen, to comfort, I will be there if you need me.”

It’s all very British isn’t it. The unspoken words and unwritten rules that we seem to learn by osmosis. Now somewhere, in all of this, there is a lesson. It may be as simple as using the proper word (encouragement, not platitude) or it may be something bigger. Something about telling it like it is. Something about “keep talking”. Something that we all will agree is a good idea but then choose to ignore anyway.

Either way, this is all far too much on one cup of coffee, I’m off for a muffin.