Heather K Adams
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Storyteller

Let's talk about your personal brand. No, not the one online. The one IRL. How you present yourself to the world plays a large part in how the world defines you, especially at work. What you say and how is just one of many ways in which you do that presenting. Overusing hyperbole can have a real effect on how you and your brand are defined professionally.

What is hyperbole?

Hyperbole is overly exaggerated or excessively dramatic language. Larger than life statements, complaints or descriptions are all hyperbole examples that you probably come across a lot more often than you realize. Most of us will resort to making exaggerated statements when we try to express just how much we're enjoying ourselves (or, you know, not). Why? Because hyperbole is all about emotion. You're either expressing a heightened state of emotion in yourself or trying to connect with someone else's emotional experience in a given situation. Hyperbole is an excellent sales and marketing tool for just that reason because you're selling potential consumers on the concept that a given product or service will solve "all" of their problems or meet every one of their needs.

The problem with hyperbole, or rather with its overuse, is that it often speaks in extremely hard and fast terms. There is little gray area in any hyperbole examples you can think of. Something is either the best or the worst thing ever, not just, say, since last Tuesday. And someone isn't just tired after a long day. They are "literally" exhausted. And that kind of language and high emotion are a bit exhausting to be around, especially in a work environment. It's excitable language, in short, and being too prone to hyperbole in a work setting may eventually erode your credibility.

Hyperbole examples.

Hyperbole is just one type of figurative language, tools which allow speakers and writers to add color, emphasis and depth to what they're trying to express. Other examples of figurative language include simile, metaphor and allusion. The hyperbole examples included here are quite common, and you might be surprised to realize just how often you use these yourself in daily life.

"I always have to do this. Nobody ever helps."

Definitive always/never statements are rarely as simple as that. But what these statements do accomplish is express just how put-upon the speaker feels, while also clearly stating that the source of their complaint rests firmly with this other person. If you find yourself saying something like this, take a step back and find a more constructive, less combative way to say how you feel.

"This is the worst day, ever."

It's probably not, but most of us are familiar with this often childish complaint. From toddlers to teenagers, bored kids on the verge of a tantrum the world over are prone toward this kind of exaggeration. Maybe keep that in mind before your next rant starts out with this classic hyperbole example.

"I'm so hungry, I could eat a horse."

A grandpa classic for the ages, this one's on par with the person who is "literally" starving. In fact, these days the word "literally" is becoming queen supreme of hyperbolic language. Its overuse is (literally) everywhere.

5 hyperbole examples you might hear in the workplace.

1. "I told you to send that email a million times!"

Was it really a million? No, it really wasn't. But if someone is saying this to you, they are definitely fed up with having to remind you to do something they see as a small and simple task.

2. "This is literally the worst assignment I've ever received."

This one could be true but only if they don't say that about every assignment they're given. As long as they're not a constant carper, chances are this person just wants to vent, get a little validation and then move on. But if it's something you're hearing daily, that's way too much hyperbole.

3, "I've handled tons of assignments like this, and I'll do a great job."

Making this statement in an interview, via email or in a cover letter is a bit much for a professional setting. Exaggeration toes a fine line with outright lying, to the point that encountering too many hyperbole examples in your communications might lead someone to assume you're probably not telling the truth. Rather than chance it, stick to concrete statistics and past performance examples when trying to express your worth.

4. "Everyone here thinks this is dumb." 

Obviously, you want to be careful voicing your complaints in a professional setting, period. And just like with always/never statements, pulling out this kind of "everyone agrees with me" bit of hyperbole is risky. Unless you just came straight from a meeting in which an opinion was unanimously agreed upon, you're just exaggerating or overstating a situation to suit your own feelings. You're putting words in other people's mouths.

5. "These tight turnarounds are killing me!"

Well, they're not, really, but the stress is definitely mounting. If you hear yourself saying things like this, now might be the time to take your hyperbole seriously and re-evaluate your work/life balance.

The dangers of hyperbole at work.

While figurative and colorful language helps you better express yourself, in life and at the office, there's always a risk of going too far. Constantly over-exaggerating your achievements or lamenting "terrible" situations will make you seem either egotistical or like a real-life Chicken Little whose sky is always falling. Add to that the fact that working with someone who only runs to extremes is tiring. And so your professionalism can take a ding. Workplace environments require a bit more of a staid and mature approach to your daily interactions.

Flamboyant personalities spouting hyperbole and metaphor in pursuit of telling a more entertaining story are larger than life. They make excellent salespeople. But in most workplace environments, you'll do best to keep a weather eye on the cultural barometer. Model your behavior on those around you. When it comes to hyperbole, cultivate a bit of self-awareness, and read the room. The hyperbole examples here are all about expressing emotions, not facts. Keeping that in mind will make all the difference between being seen as a sometimes colorful yet still professional individual — and someone who is just literally the worst.

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