We’ve all found ourselves facing a difficult situation in which we don’t want to hurt our friend’s feelings about something minor. We may not want to admit it, but telling white lies is something we’ve all had to do at some point, and we can’t help but wonder whether they serve a higher purpose or they’re just plain deceitful.
The technical term for white lies is “prosocial deception,” which may sound a big deal, but studies show that people generally tell these little white lies several times every day in order to avoid confrontation or maintain pleasant relationships.
Recent studies have actually shown that people who are compassionate are the ones who tend to tell white lies.
In the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, a study was published last month showing that there are two types of white lies: ones to prevent emotional damage and ones to promote positive outcomes for other people around you.
Over three different studies, researchers found the same results: people who are compassionate are telling more white lies, and that’s largely because they don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings.
This doesn’t mean you should try to tell more white lies in your life in order to cultivate compassion, though.
White lies can hurt people if they’re not told responsibly. They can give false confidence and maybe even deter people from achieving what they’re really going for.
Experts who worked on these studies recommend you be honest and kind whenever you can and make sure you’re not being manipulative. But it’s totally ok to tell a “well-intended lie” if it doesn’t have long-term consequences.