why do people exaggerate stories

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

The meaning behind a word

"And when the two guys saw me coming they both started running like hell then one of them dropped his wallet and was too afraid to come back and take it"

This was a A part of a story told by a guy but in fact the two guys just walked away slowly when he came.

Why do some people exaggerate?
Why would someone push the numbers in his story a bit?
Will beating 5 guys make any different than beating 4 guys?

In my previous article Do people really mean what they say i explained how people use words to reach certain goals even if they didn't really mean what they say and even if they weren't aware of their unconscious goals.

A jealous woman who says something like "It doesn't suit you" to a friend might just be jealous and using her own words to feel good about herself even if the dress was good. (see also Why a jealous friend might find you unattractive)

I get many emails from people with low esteem who ask me for help because someone criticized them in a bad way but after i explain to them that words are only tools used to reach certain goals they feel much better.

Why do people Exaggerate stories?

Each person has different psychological goals and unmet needs that he tries to reach and fulfill through every possible method. Because those goals and needs differ from a person to another the reason a person does something might be different than the reason another person does the same thing. (see also Why do i have weird habits)

Here are few examples that explain why some people Exaggerate:

  • 1) To communicate a certain trait: The guy in the example mentioned at the beginning of the article is eager to show that he is brave. When we examined his past we found that he was bullied a lot when he was a little child and because of that he developed a psychological goal to show people that he is brave and strong.
  • 2) To prove something : If a person believed that others look down on him, a which is a common sign of low self esteem, then he might exaggerate to prove to them that he is much better than they think. This is the same reason why some guys want to appear as players. Its because they believe women look down on them and so they exaggerate their social skills and importance to let people think good of them
  • 3) To support their point of view: Here is one funny fact. Many people would rather be believed even if they knew that their arguments are invalid than changing their opinion or admitting that they were wrong. In my article How people lie to support their beliefs i explained how can people give incorrect facts just to prove themslvess right. Exaggeration is one form of twisting facts to convince people with your point of view

How to prevent myself from exaggerating?

What most people don't know about bad habits is that they take other forms as soon as they are stopped. Lets suppose that someone who had the psychological goal of feeling important stopped exaggerating.

In such a case other bad habits will get developed to fullfil that same psychological need. In other words, you can't stop a bad habit unless you find other good ways to fulfill your important psychological needs.

In such a case that guy needs to excel at work for example and to fill an important position. When he believes he became important he won't feel the need to exaggerate. (see also Can getting a job increase your self esteem)

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