The Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth? Not So Fast
Honesty may not always be the best policy, Raison says.
“There are certainly times when not revealing the whole truth is more beneficial than harmful,” Raison says. For example, in the world of health, it’s well known that people diagnosed with terminal illness live longer with hope, he says.
So “if I come in and he or she says ‘doc, I am doing the treatment and I think I am going to beat it,’ it may be more if productive for me to say, ‘that sounds great — you have a great attitude!’ than to [recount his/her true odds of survival],” he says.
“I do think there are times when the best interests of the other person are served by not giving all the truth,” he says.
Almost everyone lies sometimes, Galatzer-Levy says. In fact, research has shown that people lie in one-fourth of their daily social interactions.
“It’s usually to spare themselves or someone else humiliation such as by concocting an excuse to avoid a social occasion,” he says.
“Laughing at a joke that you don’t find funny is a form of lie,” he says.
But “honesty is the best policy when someone else’s life would be affected,” Dr. Thomas, a Los Angeles Psychologist says.
It may not be the best bet in certain social situations where a white lie may go over better, she says. “If a woman says: ‘how do I look in this dress?’ and her husband says ‘it’s OK’ as opposed to fantastic or horrible, it spares someone’s feelings,” she explains.
In such cases, “neutrality is a better response than totally lying and saying it looks fabulous or telling the harsh truth like ‘it makes you look fat,'” Thomas says.