Exaggerations are common. The fish that got away was ever so large. The crowd at the fair was the biggest ever. The chance of a problem is practically non-existent.
When telling others about our escapades or ideas it is normal to get excited and exaggerate. Much of the time the audience assumes some stretching of the truth and automatically mentally adjusts what they hear. This applies especially to informal, casual situations.
Other times, people resort to exaggerations to manipulate, confuse or instill fear.
Exaggerations Are Powerful
Sales, unfortunately, is one area that frequently uses exaggerations to try to convince you to buy. Anonymous sales literature directed at the public, such as flyers and print ads, are often rife with exaggerations. They intentionally over-promise to instill fear in the reader and make you think you must have their product to succeed. Fear sells. Once the emotions take over, people don’t think rationally.
Sales is far from the only area where you will find exaggerations. The media (especially on-line) and others routinely exaggerate to try to catch your attention.
Exaggerations Cost You
When bombarded with exaggerations, you stop thinking about what actually makes sense. You then let emotions run your life. This can be costly in many ways. You spend extra money on unneeded—and sometimes unwanted—items. Your time and energy get focused on what others want instead of what you want. You adopt someone else’s judgment instead of applying your best judgment.
If you exaggerate, you incur an additional cost: the more you exaggerate, the less credibility you have. People start to discount you and your opinions don’t matter as much. Your words carry less weight with others. This can have wide-ranging ramifications in some areas of your life, such as your career.
When Exaggerations Are Intentional
Some people exaggerate with the intention of deflecting your attention from what is true and important. This explains the appeal of sensational headlines and tabloids. As many (if not most) people tend to take things at face value until shown otherwise, this unfortunately works far more than it should. A recent headline read “Women in New York are flocking to ….” Flocking? Nowhere did the article indicate the true extent of the issue. In the current fake news climate people are increasingly aware of this. The downside is people move towards a distrust for any source.
What You Can Do To Keep Perspective
If you exaggerate, stop. Stop using words like always, never, everyone, and others that indicate totality. Very seldom do these words accurately portray what you intend. Some will think you are simply over-dramatic. Others will discount you.
When you hear someone using the words always, never, everyone etc., ask for clarification or research and find the truth.
Checking multiple sources helps provide a sense of proportion also. Just as you don’t benefit by depending on one news source, you don’t always get an accurate picture of anything with out multiple perspectives.
Remember, people exaggerate to catch your attention. Sometimes they focus the attention on themselves, other times on a misleading message.
Does something seem too good to be true? Is the message far-fetched? Do you sense a little question in your gut? (Your intuition doesn’t lie.) Verify.