How to differentiate the political term “alternative facts” from the social term, “white lies,” a new term and an old term that have similarities.

The term, “alternative facts” has been floating around controversial political circles but it also has a social ring to it. We rearrange facts all the time and try not to call it outright lying because we are trying not to hurt someone’s feelings. These are in fact of course not facts at all, but the concept isn’t so new after all.

Tips on When to Use White Lies

1.Do you see your friend with a new hair cut that unfortunately is not becoming? She wants you to notice naturally but you don’t want to outright lie and say it looks good when it doesn’t. What do you do? You give a white lie.You notice she changed her hair style and seems to be enjoying it you tell her you like her appearance. This isn’t the whole truth but it saves disappointing feelings and maintains the friendship with out skipping a beat.

2. Your boss asks you to work late and you know people have been let off lately. You have other plans and don’t want to stay late at all. However, you know this isn’t the time to look at all like you shirk your duties, so you pleasantly say you’d be delighted to help out. Clearly this isn’t the factual truth but it hopefully saves your job and builds your relationship with your boss.

3.You have a standing lunch date with a friend and have a problem you want to discuss. You know she’ll make you feel better. However, she just got an invitation to a business luncheon that is important to her and she’s honored to be invited. You really don’t want her to go, but you decide to put her needs above your feelings. You tell her not to worry because you don’t mind and you can meet another time. This is actually a white lie because you want to meet right away but it’s a good compromise without giving all the facts that meets both your needs.

4. Your son calls from school and says he forgot his homework which is going to lower his grade and get him in hot water with a teacher who already doubts his work ethic. You have made other plans to complete something at work and barely have time to do one extra thing. However, you love your son and want to support him and later can discuss the problem with not getting his school work organized properly. You decide to skip lunch and bring the homework. You’re pleased to see it’s finished and done quite well to your delight. You tell him you have the time (the fact of course is you don’t) and with this white lie he feels supported, you eat in the car and all is well.

5.You’ve been dating someone and hoping it turns into a long term relationship. This person shares your interests and values and is very attractive to you. You’ve been looking forward to going to a special restaurant where you hope you discuss “going to the next level.” This paramour calls about half an hour before the date when you have spent two hours deciding what to wear and looking especially forward to the date. You know what happens next. Your date says his mother is in town unexpectedly and he must see her because their relationship is rocky. He apologizes but hopes you are flexible. You white lie and say you can plan another time and you hope he mends things with his mother. In the end you’ve given him another reason to trust you can support him and be flexible when needed despite your serious disappointment. In fact, you wish he invited this mother to the date so you could begin to feel like a part of the family. The choice however is a good one because now he can trust you to be there for him even when you both know it’s not your wish.

These are just a few examples of the huge number of opportunities to tell white lies that ultimately benefit you. The question is when to outright tell the truth. I think the answer is when you begin to feel taken advantage of and the relationship is faltering. Then speaking firmly about your needs are in order so you, too, get the support and appreciation you deserve.

Laurie Hollman, Ph.D., psychoanalyst and author of Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Familius and wherever books are sold. For more guidance in social situations visit her website at:

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