10/1/2012 10:57 AM
It seems harmless. You tell your girlfriend that her new haircut looks great when it really isn’t that flattering. Or, you say that the dry cleaning wasn’t ready yet when you actually never made it to the cleaners at all. These tiny untruths are a social lubricant that smooths out possible rough patches, right?
Wrong. As it turns out, a policy of total honesty leads to relationships that feel closer and more authentic, and a boost in self-esteem and health, as well.
In a recent study, one group of participants spent 10 weeks either telling few or no lies (fewer than three per week). Another group was given no special instructions regarding truthfulness. The stress levels, relationship satisfaction and personal well-being of the two groups was compared.
The truth-tellers reported that they felt better about themselves and their relationships. They said that their relationships felt closer and that social interactions felt more pleasant overall than they did for the group that continued using the little white lies.
How can this help your relationship?
Don’t tell lies to save someone’s feelings. There are other ways to handle the situation that can smooth things over without dishonesty. For instance, consider simply not answering the question, or couching your answer in tactful terms.
Take responsibility when you mess up. If you are late because you spent too much time dawdling around the house, don’t blame it on traffic. Simply admit your error and apologize. You’ll have one less tiny lie to manage, and a little less guilt. Being able to think of yourself as an honest person helps you feel better about yourself, and helps your relationships, as well.
Conquer the need to exaggerate. If a story is exciting enough for you to be telling it at all, try telling it without embroidering the truth. This can help you appreciate your life and your experiences as they are.
While it can feel a little strange to give up the easy way out of uncomfortable situations, in the end, your relationships, your physical health and your mental wellbeing will be better for it.