The Use of Exaggeration In Communication

The words ‘always’ and ‘never’ in argument communicate emotions, not facts.

I was listening to Alexander Shaia’s explanation on how there are two kinds of truth. In the West, if a person experiencing homelessness gets robbed of everything they owned, and they were telling a wealthy man of their situation, they would say “I got robbed, they took the last two dollars that I had.” In the West, communicating facts takes precedence over anything else. In the East, this same man telling the wealthy man might say “I got robbed, they took a million dollars from me!” In the West, this would be seen as an outright lie and the man would be ignored, but in the East, the primary mode of communication isn’t the facts of the situation but the emotions, so this man wouldn’t be ignored as crazy, but stating a legitimate complaint. So the goal of the speaker is to make an emotional connection to them. So to a wealthy man, you would say an amount that he could relate to so that sympathy might be extended. One type of truth is the facts of the situation, another type is the emotions of the situation which are communicated by appealing relatable emotions.

This got me thinking about an exaggeration especially in an argument. You might hear from your partner that you “always” forget to turn off the lights or you “never” clean up the dishes and then you might give a response like “that isn’t true!” with an explanation of those other times you cleaned the dishes or turned off the lights. Then you find yourself in an circular argument, annoyed that they aren’t giving you any grace and trying to remind them that it does happen the other way too. But with this understanding of two kinds of truth, maybe we can see that an exaggeration is a sign that you are not dealing someone trying to communicate what actually happened, but rather how they feel about what happened. It’s an attempt to have you connect with their experience not the facts of what happened. Rather than defending yourself that you do in fact remember to turn off the lights quite often, you can see their complaint as trying to communicate that it feels like you are doing chores all on your own when the simple things get forgotten. Maybe we should stay open to this other kind of truth that is there that is harder for us to see.

It’s just a change of perspective on the reasoning behind exaggeration and the people that use it. It is almost always an attempt to be heard about something other than they are speaking about. Remember that next time and you might be able to give them what they are looking for.

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