How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Sometimes we accept lies and other times we are disgusted by them. So what is the difference?
To answer this, consider what makes a lie unacceptable. It is generally considered bad when people lie to help themselves, and particularly when, in doing so, they harm others.
Acceptable lies, often called 'white lies', are those that help others. Such white lies are required in many cultures, where saving face is important, and not telling lies to protect others is considered a bad and selfish thing.
Lies are also more acceptable from those who are less likely to know the rules for not lying, most notably young children.
We all make the lies we tell acceptable to ourselves, often saying to ourselves that they are 'white lies' and done for expediency or to save face (whether or not this is true).
Linskold and Walters (1983) demonstrated a set of classifications of lie acceptability. Going from the most acceptable to the least acceptable, these are:
Older people were more accepting than students with regard to lies on tax returns, to religious officials or to a partner. Students were more accepting of playing sick to avoid work or exams. There was no significant difference in gender scores.
Note that this research was in America. In other countries the order may be different.
Generally, avoid lies, but when you use them know how others will perceive them. Understand the lies that others make and why, and you may be better able to change their minds.
Linskold, S. and Walters, P.S. (1983).