Well Being

When to Tell a White Lie: 10 Situations Where Honesty Doesn’t Pay

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Yesterday, M.D. and board-certified psychiatrist Dale Archer talked to me about ten ways to tell someone the painful truth. Now, those ten techniques are all well and good and helpful and necessary, but then I started wondering how and when to know if spilling a painful truth is just a bad idea all around — for everyone involved. (I recently told my loved one about their chronic bad breath. Was that a misstep? No? Whew.) So I asked the good doctor to tell us when we never, ever should tell someone a painful truth, regardless of how much and how well we think it may serve them. (Opt for that little white lie instead!) Dr. Archer gave us two good pieces of advice, and I've added eight of my own suggestions to round out the list. Do you agree or disagree? Have any more specific examples to add to our tally, or, better yet, personal painful truth tales to tell — either on the giving or receiving end? Sound off in our comments section, below. Truthfully, please.

When to Tell a White Lie (From Dr. Dale Archer):

1. When someone asks you: Do these jeans/pants/dress/etc. make me look fat? The correct answer is no.

2. If, for no apparent reason, one of your friends doesn’t like another one of your friends. (Or, you don't like one of your friend's friends.)

When to Tell a White Lie (From Me):

3. When you don't happen to like the person your friend is dating, but your friend seems really happy. Unless the person they're dating is physically or emotionally harming your friend, back the eff off.

4. When you really don't agree with how your friend parents their kid(s). Challenge them, and the painful truth may be that you end up losing that friend for good. And that's no lie. But hey, if that's what you want, then by all means — judge.

5. When your friend uses poor grammar verbally and in writing, which your friend may do a lot. A better, much more passive-agressive route to take is to buy your friend a copy of The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White for Christmas or their birthday.

6. When your friend maintains that his/her sense of direction is faultless, despite the fact that you've been driving around mountainous terrain for two hours at night and are completely and utterly lost. Better to just blame everything on the posh-sounding GPS lady.

7. When your friend claims that he/she is a great cook and doesn't this dish he/she made for you taste phenomenal? But, unfortunately, he/she isn't and it sure doesn't. This is where smiling and nodding become very useful relationship tools. Not to mention a well-selected cookbook gift purchase during the next appropriate holiday.

8. When your friend claims that they've lost ten pounds, but you can't possibly see where. Congratulations! and Good for you! are the only viable responses here.

9. When your friend's house is so messy and untidy that it makes the people on A&E's Hoarders look like utter neat-freaks. It's not your house, so it's definitely not your problem. Vent to others, and only hang out with your “collector” friend in neutral locations.

10. When your friend's baby/kid is just simply not cute, no matter how hard you try to imagine and pretend that it is. When you're with them, that's the cutest damn baby you've ever seen in your entire life.

Dr. Dale Archer is a medical doctor, board-certified psychiatrist, and Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association who has helped thousands of patients for more than two decades. His focus is to give good common sense psychological advice. Specialties include chemical imbalances of the brain, relationships, and personal responsibility.

photo: Thinkstock

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