Are we actually helping people by telling them white lies?

“I am relieved. May I now have the truth?”
 ― Georgette Heyer, These Old Shades

When I was high school around the early 90’s, the popular haircut back then, at least among our age range, was that of the Edward Furlong/Devon Sawa/Nick Carter style. You know, the bowl cut parted in the middle. Almost every teenager sported that look at the time and it became a problem for our school because they require guys to sport a clean-cut where bangs won’t extend below the eye brows and hair won’t cover the ears.

Some of us were able to get away with by having it a bit shorter than the usual but we mostly enjoyed having that kind of hairstyle during the summer break where no teacher or principal will stop you from growing your hair long.

Of course, not everyone can carry that look. If you have straight or partly wavy hair, you’re good to go but if you have extremely wavy or curly locks, you might as well settle for a crew or buzz cut because parting hair like that down the middle just won’t work both physically and aesthetically.

We had a friend back then who had that dilemma. He really wanted to get into the bandwagon but his hair was just not fit for the job and no matter the opposition he got from his relatives and loved ones, he still went on with what his heart was telling him which is good from a personal development standpoint because why would he listen to what people have to say if it goes against what he wants to happen. At lest he had the balls to go with it regardless of the criticism he got.

Everyone was telling him that it didn’t suit him and that he looked stupid and all and maybe they’re right in some instances. My friend,who seems to be fed up with all the flak he was getting, finally asked each and every one of us (our group) what we thought about his haircut and was I surprised to hear that everyone agreed that it looked good on him. Hell, even I did. We obviously thought it sucked but not wanting to hurt our friend’s feelings, we told him what he wanted to hear.

If I was given the chance to do it all over again, I would have went the other way around which was to tell him in a non-offending way that he should consider sporting another hairstyle instead of telling him white lies.

We’ve all said white lies especially to the people we love whose feelings we didn’t want to hurt. I think it’s in our nature to try to please people and avoid hurting their feelings even if it wasn’t the truth. We’ve all told a friend that she looked fine in that very short dress with a plunging neckline even if she really looked like a slut; we’ve all told a colleague that his presentation was good even if we slept half the time he was talking in front.

Is there really any good in telling white lies?

The Truth will Set You Free

No amount of lie can hide the truth and even if you try to mask the truth by telling someone what he or she is not, at some point, the truth will still prevail and you are doing your friend a disservice by making them hear what they want to hear instead of letting them hear the truth. You are not making them any better by telling them white lies. Instead, you are giving them a false reality that they may come to believe as fact. If you are a true friend, you must be bold enough to tell them that they gained weight, that they could improve their spoken English or be more lively in their next presentation. Remember, a white lie, even spoken under good intentions, is still a lie.

You can be Honest without being Offensive

Yes, you don’t want to hurt your friend by telling her straight in the face that she can barely fit into her dress but nobody said you had to be offensive in being honest. There is a way to give criticism without sounding rude. One of the things you can try is the sandwich approach where you give constructive criticism in between two compliments.

For example, your friend gave a quick presentation which was good by normal standards but lacked the energy and enthusiasm to sustain the interest of the audience. To give constructive criticism without offending the other party, try to mention one of their strong points first, go to the criticism, then give another compliment by either reiterating their strong points or speaking in general on how much progress or improvement they have made.

Here’s the proper approach:

“Hi, I loved your presentation earlier because it was very informative but you might want to incorporate a joke or two next time around to keep the audience glued to you. Apart from that, I think that presentation met its goal because everyone learned from what you showed us earlier.”

No lies, no sugar-coating, but entirely true.

You’re Not Helping Them Improve

When you tell a person white lies, you are in effect giving that person false hope. How? Because you are not being fair to them by telling them what they need to work on and improve on and what they need to keep up. People can be bias to what they want and being their friend, it is your responsibility to make their vision clear and see what is real and what isn’t.

If a colleague of yours is always absent and he or she asks you: “I hope everyone understands why I’m always absent, my health hasn’t been that good lately”. You knew that his person wasn’t sickly and that he or she is probably just lazy sometimes so what will you tell them? Will you tell that person that it’s all okay and that you understand or will you tell that person that his absence is having a negative impact on the team and that he needs to minimize the absences?

There’s a really big difference if you tell white lies in this situation because they won’ t realize that they need improvement unless someone actually tells them.

We all have good intentions in telling white lies. Mostly, it’s because we wouldn’t want to hurt other people’s feelings which is good however you look at it but there is also no harm in telling the person the truth even if it hurts because it’s how they will realize their imperfections and their areas for improvement. By not telling white lies, you are actually helping that person. The truth hurts but the truth will also open their eyes to what is fact over opinion.

When was the last time you said a white lie and to whom? Did it help that person in any way?

I would love to hear from you so I encourage you to leave a comment and share your stories below.

Originally published at on December 15, 2014.

Originally published at