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It’s Just a Little White Lie…


Guest articles > It’s Just a Little White Lie…


by: Deb Calvert


Do you want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? The unvarnished truth? The ugly truth? If you’re like most people – and if you’re being honest with yourself – the answer is probably “no.”

We do all kinds of things to avoid the truth. We delay and dodge conversations where someone might say something we don’t want to hear. We don’t ask questions if there’s a chance we won’t like the answer. We lie to ourselves in an effort to feel better about choices we’ve made.

Because we get comfortable with our own aversion to truth, we also assume that others are equally okay with minor modifications to the truth. So we take liberties with it and, by and large, that seems to be a socially acceptable practice.

Consider the little white lie. Some research says that every person tells little white lies throughout the day. Every person. Every day. Why? Because it’s often easier or more efficient to tell a partial truth or to say what someone else wants to hear.

In some cases, this may have no apparent consequence. Someone asks “how are you today?” and you say “Fantastic!” even though you’re barely holding it together. You responded with a little white lie because that’s what was expected. It was easier, too, to put on a happy face than it would have been to spill your guts.

The more conditioned we become to saying what’s expected, what’s efficient or what’s easy, the more risk we run of being perfectly okay with little white lies. Since some do have consequences, habitually and naturally telling lies is a dangerous way to operate.

So where do you draw the line? When you’re oohing and aaahing over a gift you hate, what’s the consequence? Are you setting yourself up to tell more lies every time this gift isn’t used or displayed? Will you offer up a repeat performance when you get a very similar gift to this one you’re professing to like so much? How far will you go to avoid hurting the gift giver’s feelings? And what happens when you’re outed for the gift-hating, over-acting liar that you are?

Maybe that’s a little too harsh. After all, your intentions are good. But are you really being kind when you don’t share the way you really feel? What kind of a relationship is that?

How about when you exaggerate? Is that okay? Embellishing your stories may make you the life of the party. But what if it’s working against you, compromising your credibility and making you the brunt of others scorn or eye-rolling?

When you tell a little white lie, is it really harmless? Sure, it may save you some hassle right here and right now. But those lies add up. They impair relationships because they come between people. Every time we justify our untruths and our half-truths by telling ourselves we don’t want to hurt someone else, we are compounding the lie.

Lies hurt. Even when they are little lies with no real significance, they hurt the person being lied to. They exclude that person from a part of you they wanted to share. They communicate that you were unwilling or unable to be vulnerable enough to share the truth that the avoidance of a negative reaction mattered more than the relationship itself.

Face it. When you lie, your intention is to mislead. You are misrepresenting the truth. This “little white lie” is an attempt to manipulate the situation for your own gain. When you look at it that way, the size of the lie doesn’t really matter.

I’d be lying if I said that this extremely high standard I’m describing is one that I personally live by. I’d like to be there. I try to catch myself when I am telling less than the truth. I want to avoid hurting others the way I feel hurt when I’m lied to. Even so, the allure of the little white lie is powerful. Sometimes it just slips out.

The truth is that I’m working on this and some days I am more successful than I am on others. But my awareness is helping me to do a better job of thinking twice before I lie. And that second thought is usually enough to get me back on track with the truth.


Deb Calvert is President, People First Productivity Solutions

Contributor: Deb Calvert

Published here on: 22-Dec-13

Classification: Development



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