Overgeneralization is when any and every event is considered (often incorrectly) as a pattern of never-ending defeat or absolute proof of an opinion.

“You are never nice to me.”

“They never appreciate my work.”

“This is a moment all Americans are proud.”

“Our team is always the best.”

“You are always wrong.”

Overgeneralization is a very common cognitive distortion.  It is really about making something so simple that it is no longer accurate.

When I hear someone that frequently overgeneralizes, it often reminds me of the old joke, “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a million times, ‘Don’t exaggerate!'”

Words like “always” and “never”are your clues that overgeneralization is taking place.  Few things are so absolute that these words would be commonly accurate.

When communicating with others, listen for these clues.  If you are the one saying them, be sure you are accurate.  Otherwise, you are damaging your credibility and probably not seeing the situation correctly either. Pause and consider that your words have meaning and make sure your words are accurate.

If others are saying these things, consider the source and situation.  Maybe it is that absolute.  But if it is not, then respond appropriately for the situation and not based on someone else’s distorted view.



About the Author

Glenn S. Phillips works with leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. An author and blogger, Glenn is often quoted in national media, plays a really ugly tuba (it even has a bullet hole) and is a fan of dark chocolate and great puns.