Why do we exaggerate stories? Is it good or bad? In this article, I am sharing a good story with you and why it can be helpful to exaggerate sometimes, and why it is harmful to lie.
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Some 25 years ago, I worked the night shift at a drilling site in the Bay Area. In the old company pick-up truck, I drove down the highway looking for a place to get some breakfast.
Suddenly, the rearview window reflected the blue lights of a police car. It wanted me to pull over. For me, it was the first time that I got pulled over in the United States, and I didn’t look great wearing my dirty and orange overall. The officer could easily mistake me for a fugitive. Slowly, I stopped the truck beside the highway and opened my window as the police officer approached the car.
Without greeting me, he barked: “Driving license and registration!” I reached slowly for the glove compartment to get my passport, driving license, and company registration paper. Again, the officer yelled at me and ordered me to get out of the car as he pointed his gun at my head. I slowly unbuckled my seat belt and opened the door. As soon I was out of the car, the officer holstered his gun, grabbed me, and yanked me against the pick-up. He searched me for any concealed weapons and told me to stay put as he searched the car and got the documents from the glove compartment. He wanted to see my driving license, and I pointed at the pink document.
“What kinda Mickey Mouse driving license is this?” he asked me incredibly. Before the credit card format driving license, I used to have a large pink document proving that I could drive a vehicle. He couldn’t quite make sense out of it, but my passport and registration papers seemed to be fine. There was no reason to give me a ticket or a warning.
“Next time,” he ordered me, “keep your hands on the steering wheel and tell me that your license is in the glove compartment!” And then he drove off. I was trembling and rested my head on the steering wheel. I was shocked about what just happened. Finally, I got myself together. I was too excited to go back to my motel and sleep, so I continued to look for a place that services breakfast at 6 a.m.
I enjoyed telling this story many times. The thing is that I have never been pulled over that night after the graveyard shift. The police officer never pointed a gun towards me. Instead, I found a nice breakfast place and went to bed right afterward.
It did happen to a colleague of mine at a different time and place in the United States. Somehow it got imprinted in my mind as I remembered driving on the highway through a bad part of the Bay area.
Imagine the story to be:
Some 25 years ago, I was driving home from the night shift at a drilling site. It was five o’clock in the morning, and I was looking for a place to have breakfast. I found a suitable establishment, and after a good meal, I went to my motel to sleep—end of the story.
Is it an interesting story? Would you remember it? An experiment by the Wesleyan College in Georgia showed that people feel more emotionally connected to a storyteller when they exaggerate (a little). Much more than when just facts are communicated. I felt the excitement and passed this over to my listeners when I told them that a police car pulled me over in the middle of the night.
Between a good story and a bunch of data, a good story always prevails.
Exaggeration and Lying
When you are telling a story about yourself, you share who you are as a person. I like exciting adventures, I am loyal to my work to do the night shift, and I respect the law. When you exaggerate a story, you might emphasize what is important in a story: A detail, an emotion, an action, or a value that is important to you. If you then exaggerate a little, it can not do much harm.
On the other hand, when you lie bluntly, this can work against you. People will feel less connected and will distrust you. If you suspect someone exaggerating (or lying to you), you can ask for details (“Freek, when did the police officer pull out his gun exactly? Was he alone or did he have a partner?”). Or you could verify the story by calling the Oakland Police department.
Your Golden moments
Your WHY is based on stories. These golden moments are meaningful experiences that helped you to become who you are today. Some stories are rather painful, and others might be very exciting. A WHY is based on emotions, and so are your stories. When you want to discover your WHY you want to go back to those emotions and find a theme and its meaning. Those themes will form the basis of your WHY.
For more information on how to find your WHY, please read this article.
Do you want to live your life with more purpose, fulfillment, and joy? Start to discover your WHY today and contact me for an intake! As you tell your stories, you are allowed to exaggerate a little to emphasize emotions and feelings!
Have you ever exaggerated a story or tell a tall tale? What was the reason, and what happened next? Let me know in the comment field below. The other readers of this article. and I are looking forward to reading from you!
Finally, I have a movie tip for you. The “Big Fish” is full of tall stories. Enjoy the magic! Perhaps it inspires you to tell lively stories.
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