White lies are like small versions of dishonesty, which we all use every day to avoid causing conflict, hurt, or embarrassment. While it may be tricky to remember which lies are okay to tell and which aren’t, sometimes it’s just best to tell the truth. In spite of this, we all tell white lies in everyday conversations. Here are some of the most common ones we use:
To Make Others Feel Better
- “That outfit looks great on you.”
- “I’ve always been a fan of your music.”
- “I’m sure he never meant to hurt you.”
- “You are so talented.”
- “It was really nice to see you.”
We sometimes tell these white lies out of politeness, especially when we don’t want to say negative comments to someone and risk crushing their self-esteem or hurting their feelings. They are usually harmless, but can cause confusion if someone believes the lie.
To Avert Tension and Conflict
- “I never got the memo.”
- “I don’t remember promising this.”
- “I just got here.”
- “I was just on my way to see you.”
- “I’m almost done.”
We sometimes tell these white lies when we’re trying to avoid a disagreement or awkwardness. We don’t want to let on that we knew what was being asked of us, or let others know where we have been when we should have been somewhere else.
To Save Face
- “I forgot my wallet.”
- “Sorry, I was stuck in traffic.”
- “Must’ve been an accident.”
- “It was an honest mistake.”
- “That’s not what I meant.”
We often tell these white lies when we’re trying to save face in some way. We don’t want to admit that we were late because we had overslept, or that we did something wrong and are now trying to cover it up.
To Get Out of a Commitment
- “I already have plans.”
- “I’m not feeling well.”
- “I have too much work to do.”
- “I won’t be able to make it.”
- “I don’t have the time.”
We sometimes tell these white lies when we are trying to wriggle out of things we do not want to do. We may tell someone that we already have plans or that we don’t feel well to avoid doing something that we’re not interested in, do not have the time for, or don’t want to do.
To Omit Facts
- “It was a great party.”
- “We had fun.”
- “It was okay.”
- “I had a great time.”
- “Everything is great.”
Sometimes, when we don’t want to tell the truth about something, we just omit certain facts. We might say that something was great when, in fact, we were bored, or that we had a great time when, in reality, we were not so pleased.
When White Lies Become a Bad Habit
White lies are a way of life and a way of staying out of harm’s way. Nonetheless, white lies can also become a habit. They become so commonplace in our lives that they come out automatically, without us even putting thought into what we’re saying. This is often a sign that we’re not ready to be completely honest or that we’re afraid of saying what we really think.
The Effects of White Lies
People typically think that white lies are harmless because they are meant to do something good for the other person. However, if done too often, habitual white lies can lead to trust issues and confusion. We start to doubt the truthfulness of what is being said, and our relationships suffer because we can never be sure of what’s being withheld or whether someone is being honest.
White lies can also cause unexpressed resentments and resentments since we’re not sharing our true feelings. This further keeps us in the dark and stops us from reaching our full potential in our relationships.
When to Tell the Truth and When to Avoid It
There are certain situations in life when lying is more acceptable than others. When it comes to mundane everyday conversations about observations or feelings, it’s usually best to tell the truth. When the conversation is more consequential and involves another person’s feelings or reputation, it’s usually best to omit the truth and be more tactful with your statements.
That said, if you’re feeling annoyed, frustrated, or angry and want to express your feelings, it’s important to find ways to do so without pointing fingers or creating further conflict. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide when to tell the truth and when to utilize tactful white lies.
How to Be Honest While Being Empathetic
It is possible to be honest while also exercising empathy by being thoughtful in the delivery of the truth. Make sure to temper your comments with understanding and avoid assigning blame or accusations. Be aware of the other person’s feelings as well as your own and be honest, but not at the expense of another person.
Also, consider the reason why you might be tempted to tell a white lie in the first place. Are you trying to make yourself look good, or to avoid a confrontation? If so, try to take a step back, take a breath, and find a way to navigate the conversation without resorting to untruths.
White lies are one of the most commonly used forms of dishonesty. We use them to spare someone else’s feelings, to avoid conflict, or even to appear better than we are. While white lies can be more palatable than more devious fibs, they can still take a toll if done too often.
It’s important to remember that honesty (as long as it’s done respectfully and compassionately) is the best policy. Learning to speak the truth while still exercising empathy can take some practice, but it’s worth it. The right balance of tactful honesty and kindness will always be more beneficial in the long run.