Coach Pat Riley is known for his suave, cool, metro-sexual demeanor. This week he also deserves “props” for making the familiar fresh.

Due to the ubiquitous nature of ESPN and every sport imaginable appearing on all the major networks, we have heard just about every sports cliché’ repeated ad infinitum.

“We’ve got to take it one game at a time.” “I couldn’t have done this on my
own. It was a team effort.” Been there, heard that.

This is why it was such a treat to hear Pat Riley’s response to a reporter’s question about the possibility of having to play a game 7 in the NBA Finals.

The Miami Heat, with stars Dwayne Wade and Shaquille O’Neal, were up 3-2 and headed to Dallas to play the Mavericks. If the Heat won this “away” game, they’d take the series. If they lost, they’d be forced to play a final game to determine the championship.

When asked about the possibility of a game 7, Riley wasn’t content to trot out a tired cliché. Instead, he said, “I packed one suit, one shirt and one tie.”

Brilliant. His creative, second level response made it quite clear to his team and everyone listening that he was supremely confident the Heat would win that night and take home the championship.

A second level response is when, instead of saying something obvious, you say something subtle that requires people to think about what you said in order to determine your meaning. It’s a way of engaging people’s brain instead of settling for a trite, on the surface response that has no intellectual depth.

Michael Jordan did the same thing when Chicago Bulls Coach Phil Jackson chided him during practice one day for not sharing the ball and passing to an open player. “You know, Michael,” he said, “There’s no I in team.”

With a twinkle in his eye, Jordan replied, “Yeah, but there is in win.”

Next time you’re asked a question, realize you have a choice. You could give a cliché’d response that will elicit internal eye-rolling. Or, you could pleasantly surprise people – and gain style points – by giving an unexpected, thought-provoking response.

For specific tips on how to compose thought-provoking, “second-level” responses, check out Chapter 7, “Don’t Repeat Cliché’s, Re-arrange Cliché’s” in Sam Horn’s newest book, POP! Stand Out in Any Crowd (Perigee).

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