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Video: Is it OK to tell white lies?

updated 10/3/2007 11:05:46 AM ET 2007-10-03T15:05:46

Now, let me make myself perfectly clear, I’m not one for lying or for telling people it’s OK to lie. Having said that, telling a little “white lie” every once in a while might actually be healthy when it comes to managing our interpersonal relationships. I clearly don’t need to go into all of the reasons why telling the truth is important. One of the fundamental foundations for our relationships depends on our ability to rely and trust those who are most dear and close to our hearts. So, now that I got that out of the way, I can talk about some of the reasons or exceptions to why telling the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, might actually not apply. Here are four instances when it’s OK to tell a little white lie:

1. When the whole truth tears someone down and makes them feel horrible about themselves rather than builds them up, like saying “I like your new, extremely short haircut” when in reality it’s just awful. Brutal honesty can be used as a toxic weapon. We are not obligated to tell the whole truth if it hurts someone’s feelings.

2. A little white lie like mentioning the tooth fairy or Santa Claus is acceptable when it protects a child’s innocence or creative imagination. How can you argue with that one?

3. Offering passing pleasantries, like “Oh … it’s no trouble at all” or “I’m fine, thanks for asking,” counts as OK in my book, too.

4. Complimenting someone, but perhaps taking it a little too far, like saying “Your cookies are the best I’ve ever had," is also acceptable. Mild false truths make it easier for people to get along and are primarily harmless in most cases.

The major difference between a white lie and a hard lie is that a hard lie is said to protect oneself, whereas a little white lie is said to protect someone else. Relationships can be complex and tricky at times. Sometimes a harmless, thoughtful pleasantry is just what the doctor ordered.

Dr. Robi Ludwig is a nationally known psychotherapist, award-winning reporter, contributing editor for Cookie magazine and host of GSN's new reality game show, “Without Prejudice?”. She can be also be seen Monday nights on “Nancy Grace” on CNN's Headline News. Dr. Ludwig is a regular contributor to the TODAY show. To learn more about Robi Ludwig and her work, you can visit: DrRobiLudwig.com and Cookiemag.com

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