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As kids, we’re told, time and again, that lying is wrong. Do you believe that’s always true? In your book, are there any exceptions?

For the sake of honesty, I’m compelled to say lying is okay. Or at least not telling the whole truth is acceptable. Sometimes you can skirt the issue by answering a question with a question, or you can reply conditionally. For instance, when my daughter dyed her ash blonde/brown hair quite dark, I could have said, “Well, it’s certainly a different look for you, but do you think your complexion is a big light for the dark hair?” (Actually, with my daughters I can be pretty honest and just say “I don’t like it,” because they know I’m not trying to be hurtful. They also know I won’t nag or belittle them for their choices.)

There are times when telling the truth would seem mean, or there’s no way to be honest without make people feel badly. In those cases I tend to reply with a question, asking what they think — about what they’re wearing, how they feel about their new haircut , why they think their boyfriend is being so demanding; at least that gives you some idea of how else you can respond. Sometimes you can lead others to their own answer without slapping them in the face with your opinion.

I would be totally opposed to lying to get something for myself, or make me seem something I’m not. In truth, if I were to lie on a job application, I might well be found out; if I lie to get a benefit, entitlement, whatever, then that would simply be wrong.

I think we’ve all found ourselves in the situation where we’ve told a lie, or expressed an opinion we don’t believe in, we get caught out. Serial lying is difficult, because you have to remember what you’ve told different people. If you don’t lie, it’s just easier. Even if people don’t agree with you, they will probably still respect you for your honesty.

I have a friend at work whom I get along with very well. He’s a liberal Democrat — I’m not. We scuffle now and then, but for the most part we just don’t discuss politics. For the sake of truth you can choose not to take part in discussions you know you can’t agree with; other times you are compelled to speak out. If you always do so with respect for the other people involved, that makes the words you speak more palatable.

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