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Lies That Are Okay to Tell Your Friends


Is lying bad for friendship? How about white lies? It turns out, lying to protect your friend’s feelings can be a very kind thing to do. You never want to say something you’ll never be able to take back, right? And you certainly don’t want your friend to feel bad because you were insensitive.

While we want to be honest in a gentle way with friends we also need to monitor our intentions. There are times when we need to “get real” with friends, especially when they are making bad choices. But if we’re just blurting out hurtful things (even if they are true) we need to figure out why. This is called antisocial lying, when friends are sometimes jealous or irritated with their friend.
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Studies show that lying in order to be kind, also called pro-social lying, can help you maintain a strong friendship. Robin Dunbar (the psychologist who also suggested there is a limit to how many friends we can realistically have in our lives), says that people who engaged in pro-social lying (or white lies) actually had stronger bonds with friends and acquaintances.

These were people who were pleasant to be around because they weren’t trying to be hurtful or give friends a dose of reality when it wasn’t called for.

Here are some acceptable white lies that can help your friend feel better.


Thank you! I love the gift you gave me.
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Even if the gift you bought your friend was one of the worst ever, be sure to thank them with enthusiasm. Friends don’t have to buy you things, so if they open up their wallets to give you something they think you’ll like, show them as much happiness as you can.

Gift giving is tricky, especially when friends are notoriously poor gift givers. You might wonder if their gift is meant as a way to put you down or maybe they are sending you a not-so-subtle message. But put all that thinking aside and just give them the benefit of the doubt.


I was just about to call you.
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We want to believe that friends are thinking about us even when we haven’t heard from them in a while. The trouble is, we get busy and forget to keep in touch. We might have a million other things in our mind, but if a friend calls you out of the blue and wonders if you were ever going to call or text, tell them yes. It will make them feel good.


You look great.
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Why tell a friend they look tired or like they’ve gained weight? It only makes them feel self-conscious, and chances are they already know when they aren’t looking the best. We want friends who will love us unconditionally and when we tell them they’re looking good it shows them we see their inner beauty and kind heart.


I enjoyed your… (book, song, painting, sweater).
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Everyone has different preferences about creativity. What appeals to one person doesn’t appeal to the next person. So why hurt a friend’s feelings when they’re being creative? Maybe you don’t really love their writing or art, but try to be encouraging anyway. Tell them you did. Buy their work. Support their efforts.


I see your point.
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This is an especially good response for topics that are heated, like religion or politics. These types of subjects can be okay for some friends but with others it can lead to major blow outs that derail the friendship. Saying “I see your point” or “I understand why you’ve taken that side” will help a friend feel heard even when you don’t get where they are coming from. It’s another way of saying “let’s agree to disagree,” and is a better way to end an awkward conversation than saying “whatever.”

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