Platitudes get on my nerves. They are cheap and thoughtless answers to complicated problems.
“Honesty is the best policy” is a platitude that especially irks me and anybody else who stops to think about it for two seconds.
Honesty is a great policy in many situations, but it isn’t always the best policy.
Sometimes you have to tell a white lie to spare someone’s feelings. If your friend sends you a picture of herself after her new haircut and says “Do you like my haircut?” you’re not going write back to say “Heck, no!”
You’re going to write “Who cares about me — do YOU like it?” or just “Yes!,” instead.
That’s only polite. The truth is important, but we have to be mindful of people’s feelings, also. If we are honest, there are times when we ask other people’s opinions and we don’t really want to hear the truth from them, either.
If we pay attention, we can easily tell the difference between truth-telling situations and other interactions where the best choice is to be kind.
Here are five white lies you are allowed to tell at work.
You will not get hit with a thunderbolt or hurt anybody’s feelings when you tell these white lies instead of the cold, hard truth.
1. When someone asks you to honestly critique their presentation at a meeting or another activity that was new for them, tell them “I’m proud of you. You really stepped out there!” even if they did a horrendous job. Don’t say “It was painful to watch your presentation” even if it’s true!
2. When your manager is frustrated and invites you to throw a co-worker under the bus, don’t do it — even if your co-worker is guilty. If Evan was supposed to double-check the report before it went to your VP and Evan forgot to do it and the VP got a report with errors in it, don’t say “Evan messed up!” When your boss asks you “Wasn’t Evan supposed to check the report?” you can say “I don’t remember, but it’s okay — I’ll check in with Evan and it won’t happen again.”
3. When you helped your co-worker with their project to such an extreme degree that you basically did the project for them, give them the credit anyway. If your boss asks you “Did you do Sarah’s project for her? It has your fingerprints all over it” you can say “She’s a fast learner — she’ll do it alone next time!”
4. When your co-worker, customer or vendor asks you for your input on a memo, a brochure or anything else they hand you or send you to look at, and the material you’re asked to evaluate is horrendous, don’t say so. Few people if any can handle the feedback “This is wretched — you need to start over.” The same person who is standing next to you waiting anxiously for your feedback is the person who thought this brochure or this memo was the bee’s knees when they designed or approved it. Give them one tiny piece of feedback like “You might try getting more contrast between the background the typeface next time” and let it go.