Honesty is the best policy. Except in two very specific situations.
- To protect yourself or someone else from danger. For example, we tell our kids to lie if someone at the door asks if their parents are home when we aren’t. Similarly, if someone is trying to manipulate, trick, or hurt you, they don’t deserve the truth, as they will try to use it against you. In these situations, you should always lie and encourage the loved ones in your life to do the same.
- To protect the feelings of others. If you have someone’s best interest at heart and are not lying to them for selfish reasons, research shows it’s beneficial to lie when someone’s feelings are involved. The classic example is if your spouse asks if they look good before leaving the door, especially when there’s no time to change. Rather than exaggerate, however, a comical half-truth can work much better to boost the confidence of loved ones and hopefully illicit a calming laugh. For example, “You looked worse on your wedding day,” spoken with a playful smile.
When in doubt or when trying to avoid the natural consequences of your bad behavior, honesty really is the best policy. But in these tricky situations, careful lying is the way to go.