Monday, March 28, 2011

Hyper Hyperbole

Football players have been very vocal about their feelings in regards to the NFL lockout. They don’t feel they are being treated fairly. Whether that is true or not, is a debate to be had on another blog. What is relevant here is the disturbing trend towards hyperbole or choosing words that over dramatize a situation. Word choice can quickly make a bad situation worse.

In the case of football players, they are quick to equate their situation to slavery. Multi-millionaire athletes comparing themselves to slaves. If that doesn’t sound ridiculous and overblown, I don’t know what is. Slaves did not get paid … at all. Slaves were subject to extreme beatings and worse from their owners. They were helpless and had no control over their fates or their families. It was not uncommon to have families separated with wives and children being sent to different plantations. Slaves didn’t have their pick of women and the ability to live in the best neighborhoods with the biggest houses. They didn’t have agents whose sole purpose was to get them the best deal and the ability to earn even more money through endorsements. Slaves were denied an education. They didn’t receive scholarships.

How often do we do the same thing? How often do we choose words that help make a bad situation worse? We aren’t just sad, we’re devastated. Someone wasn’t just angry with us, they were furious. Using words that make our situations larger than life often helps us gain sympathy and support. It often gives us the attention we crave but at what cost.

If everything is catastrophic, what happens when something actually catastrophic happens? Remember the boy that cried wolf. He cried it so often, when it wasn’t warranted, that when the wolf really was there, no one cared to listen. We also want to be careful with our word choice because we can make ourselves feel worse with the words we choose. Doesn’t ‘devastated’ feel worse than ‘kind of sad’? Isn’t ‘humiliated’ worse than ‘embarrassed’? We want to choose words and feeling that are easier to overcome.

Consider this scenario. On this particular morning you: lose your keys, spill coffee on your new outfit, have a terrible time getting the kids up and moving, get stuck in traffic and after you get to work realize you left your glasses on the nightstand and your cell phone in the kitchen. Yes, this is shaping up to be a bad day. Is your day ruined or off to a rocky start? The words you chose help determine how you view the rest of your day. Ruined implies your whole day is shot. A rocky start implies that it will get better.

Which do you choose?


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