10 Common Forms Of Overpromising

OverpromisingAre you prone to overpromising?

It could be something as simple as telling a friend that you’ll meet them at 12:00 PM for lunch and you show up at 12:20 PM.

Or it could be a work situation where you promise a certain quality and deliver something lesser.

It can easily happen to some people. I won’t say it happens to all people, but it seems to happen to quite a few.

If you’re prone to over-promising here are a few instances to look for and avoid.

1. Case Studies

There is nothing wrong with creating case studies for your business. There is nothing wrong with focusing on the clients that have had the most success either.

The catch for that last one is that you set certain expectations each time a prospect reads those case studies. If they see results in that case study they’re going to expect the same or possibly even better.

And maybe that’s fine.

But if there are variables that determine the success from client to client make sure you make that clear in some way. Maybe you even only do case studies for the average client. Not the worst. Not the best.

2. Gifting

We’ve all seen gift recipients that have been disappointed in their gifts. They try their best to smile, but they struggle to hide their sadness. It’s all over their face.

And it’s not always the giver’s fault. It just depends on what the receiver’s expectations are. As the potential giver, it’s up to you to do a little homework to figure out where the recipient’s expectations are.

A little homework can help out a ton when you’re looking to give gifts.

3. Timelines

Mentioned this one in the intro. It’s probably one of the most common. Saying you’ll arrive at a certain time only to be late. Or maybe you don’t even show at all.

Whenever you give a time make sure you’ve taken into account all possible variables. My grandpa was always ten minutes early to everything. At least ten minutes. He always left a buffer. That way if something happened, which it sometimes did, he was still on time or even still a little early.

4. Attention

This is a big one in the age of the smartphone. There is an expectation that when you’re with someone that they will receive your attention. It’s an implied promise. But it’s really easy to pull out the phone to check those latest notifications. Every time you do that, though, you break your promise.

5. Proposals

More for business, but also in certain personal situations like a marriage. Certain expectations are set with the proposal. Then the work begins and it becomes apparent that those expectations aren’t going to be met. The other party will for sure feel let down.

6. Absolutes

Saying things like no, all, never, forever, etc.

In one of the Star Wars movie there is a quote that goes something like, “Only a Sith deals in absolutes…”

Absolutes are tricky territory, but it’s easy to say something like, “Everybody does…”

The more you avoid absolutes the more you avoid overpromising.

7. Guarantees

If you make a guarantee in life or in business you better be at least 99.9% sure that you can follow through on it. Otherwise you not only have the potential to come up short, but you’re going to disappoint the other person and they may never give you another chance.

This comes up every once in awhile around Christmas when companies sometimes get into trouble by promising delivery by Christmas Day.

8. Teasers

I’ve seen this one big time over the last ten years in the startup world and especially in the software world.

Telling your audience that something is coming soon before it’s finished.

It drives people crazy. A big one for me was a bank I was working with. They promised several years ago that they would get mobile business deposits for their app. They just mentioned it. Teased it. Finally, after a few more promises, it came true.

But why even make the tease in the first place?

9. Success

New NFL coaches often promise wins. But they can’t control everything in a game. Wins are obviously the goal, but they often result from how the team practices and prepares along with other uncontrollable circumstances.

Maybe a coach should promise to bring in a system that is likely to result in wins, but promising to win sets up for a possible major letdown.

10. Competitive Rhetoric

A final area of possible overpromising comes when you start getting competitive. You see your competitor doing something and you puff your chest and say that you can do the same thing.

Maybe you can, but you better be sure otherwise you’re setting yourself up for failure. Now, not only can’t you deliver what your competitor can, but you’re letting down customers by overpromising.


Overpromising is something that many people struggle with. We know that we should underpromise and over deliver, but even knowing that isn’t enough. Maybe it’s an ego thing. Maybe it’s a desperation thing. I don’t know.

Whatever the case, maybe knowing some of the common issues, like the ones above, can help make things better.

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