We all know the old saying, that "honesty is the best policy." But is it really? Is it actually necessary and good to be truthful 100 percent of the time? If you really think about it, there seem to be a few situations in life where being honest simply isn't worth it. You know the times I'm talking about... like when you're faced with a personal question at work, and an honest answer could get you in trouble. Or when someone's asking for your opinion, and you just don't have anything nice to say.
While you should obviously try to be honest whenever possible, it is OK to occasionally tell a little white lie, or withhold the truth, if it means keeping the peace or preserving a relationship.
"If telling the whole truth will make you unsafe, ruin your reputation, or cause general headaches, keeping quiet is always an option," certified counselor Jonathan Bennett tells Bustle. "[Also], while authenticity and honesty are important, not everyone is entitled to know your life story or have access to your authentic self." And if that means telling a little white lie? Then go ahead and do it, without feeling guilty.
Below, a few situations like these where being honest isn't always worth it.
1. When You're Around Toxic People
While I wish it weren't so, almost everyone has a toxic person or two in their life. And, unfortunately, you kinda have to watch what you say around them. "If you make yourself vulnerable to them by sharing your true self, it’s possible they will use it against you in some way," Bennett says. "Being totally honest around them could have negative consequences and it’s best to keep them at arm’s length."
2. When Asked Personal Questions At Work
As long as it doesn't pertain to your job, you have every right to keep certain things private at work. And sometimes that means hiding the truth or telling a little white lie. "In these settings, sharing your true opinions and feelings can cause huge headaches and isn’t always worth it," Bennett says. "For example, if your workplace would be highly judgmental of your lifestyle and you could even be fired for it, it’s best to keep that information under wraps."
3. When Someone You Love Has Failed
Was your SO rejected from grad school? Or did your friend get fired from her beloved job? During times like these, psychoanalyst Dr. Claudia Luiz says, "they're probably beating themselves up and your honesty will just beat them down. At those times ... it's important to preserve a fragile ego. You need to remind the person and reassure them that everything is OK and that these things happen." Save the advice giving and honesty for when they feel better.
4. When Someone's Looking For Your Approval
Another time it's not worth it to be honest? When someone in your life is just looking for a compliment or reassurance, and your true opinion might drag them down. This situation can arise in relationships, like when your SO asks if you had a good time at their [insert thing they invited you to here] and you totally didn't. "You don’t think there are any major problems but its just not your preference," says clinical psychologist Dr. Josh Klapow, host of The Web Radio Show. "Why be honest? What will the honesty do?"
5. When Sharing Embarrassing Stories From Your Past
Let's say your new partner asks a question about your past. Nine times out of ten, you should answer truthfully. But if you have a few embarrassing moments you're worried might change their opinion of you — and they don't affect your relationship — it may be a good idea to keep 'em secret.
As Klapow says, "Maybe you tried drugs and had a bad experience, or maybe you got into an argument with your parents and cursed them out. Do you need to tell your current significant other all of this? Probably not."
6. When You Don't Like Someone's Food
OK, so you shouldn't lie to your partner about food preferences, since doing so can set you up for a lifetime of having to choke down that one dish you secretly despise. But if you've simply been invited to the neighbors' for dinner, politeness should prevail when it comes to what you really think about their food. "White lies — or what we call altruistic lies — are lies that are presented to preserve the relationship and protect the person," Klapow says. "And that's more than OK."
7. When Someone Asks If They Look OK
In the same vein, you might consider telling someone they look fine, even if you're not a huge fan of what they're wearing — but only if they're not a close friend, and only when you're already out and they can't go change.
Same goes for telling a sick friend they seem better. If it'll cheer them up and give them hope that they're horrible cold is, in fact, sounding better, why not say so?
8. When Someone's Sharing An Exciting Idea
Let's say your friend has sat you down for coffee, and is excitedly chatting away about her new business idea. But you hate it. Do you a) say so, and ruin her momentum? Or b) smile and say it sounds like fun? I'd go with b.
"We are too quick to give our opinions rather than waiting to see if our opinion is even requested," says counselor Tiffany Ashenfelter, LPC-S. "If our opinion is sought then we can give honest feedback." But if not, it's better to simply offer your support.
9. When Coming Clean After An Affair
Unless your partner expressly asks for the intimate details, it's almost never a good idea to be brutally honest about your affair. "By doing so it will lead to pain for [your] partner while alleviating [you] of the guilt of the secret," says Ashenfelter. In other words, coming clean is almost always more for you, than it is for them. So it's not worth it to say it.
10. When Breaking Up With Someone
It's up to you to decide what to say when breaking up with someone. But do recognize that the truth is not always what they need to hear. "If you are breaking up with someone because he or she never listens to you, then it might be clarifying and useful to tell the person in those words," says licensed psychotherapist Kenneth Jedding, LCSW. "But if you are breaking up because of, say, something about their physical appearance or some other thing that is beyond their control, then why not find some nice euphemism? Someone invented 'it’s not you, it’s me” for a reason.'"
11. When You Just Don't Want To Share
Again, your personal life is yours. So if someone's hounding you for info, it's OK to lie to get them to go away. "One example of that might be when you are in the middle of an incredibly painful time of life, such as infertility and a distant acquaintance or even a stranger begins questioning you on when you plan to have children," says Ashenfelter. Answering them, or even fielding those Qs, might not be worth it if it's going to make you upset.
All of that said, it's important to remember that honesty is usually the best policy, so don't make a habit out of fibbing your way through life. But if you come upon a situation where being honest might cause more problems than it's worth — and withholding the truth won't hurt anybody — then consider it OK.
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