Honesty is enormously important in any interpersonal relationship – even more so in a friendship or relationship. Isn’t it? Are there situations in which the best advice is: Fuck off, honesty?
At first I am inclined to agree unconditionally. But then the first doubts arise: is honesty really always the best way to deal with a friend?
The trigger for me to think about the sense and nonsense of honesty is the Swedish-Danish crime series The Bridge – Transit to Death, which I am currently watching. In it, two very different investigators have to work together on a complicated case.
Above all, the Swedish inspector Saga Norén is an initially unwieldy character for the viewer, because she shows marked autistic traits. This manifests itself above all in the fact that she almost always approaches situations extremely objectively and rationally and has difficulty understanding the emotions of other people. That is why she often, but always unintentionally, hurts other people’s feelings, which is mainly due to her unsparing honesty.
She is always crystal clear about how she sees things in the light of the facts. And that leads to all kinds of problems on an interpersonal level, both with her colleagues and with witnesses or relatives of victims.
Her Danish colleague Martin finds Saga’s manner relatively amusing at first, for example when, at a dinner invitation, she tells Martin’s wife straight out that the food tastes awful. Things get more difficult, however, when a 14-year-old girl goes missing and the two talk to her mother. Martin tries to calm the woman down and promises her that the girl is fine and that the police will find her and bring her back safely. Saga looks at him completely irritated and says: But you can’t promise that. After all, she may already be dead.
You can imagine that neither the missing woman’s mother nor Saga’s colleague react very enthusiastically. Yet she is only being completely honest. Yes, sure, some readers might think, but in friendships it is rarely a matter of life and death, even in love relationships this is fortunately the exception…
In normal relationships between friends and even more so between partners, it makes sense, no, it is important, no, it is even necessary (!) to be absolutely honest! After all, this is the basis of mutual trust and… and… anyway, what about the categorical imperative and all that?!?
Well, I thought about the situations in which lying might be the better option…
Friend X: It’s terrible, I always have bad luck with men / women!!! Never do I meet the prince / princess of my dreams! I will grow old lonely and die without ever having known love!
The honest answer (a la Saga Norén): Well, that’s a realistic option. I mean, that was already how many people didn’t want to know you after the second date at the latest? Tenth, twentieth? Maybe there’s something about you that bothers them, like your crooked nose or your bad breath. I mean, maybe you’ll still meet the person who’s into it and by some really big coincidence you might also be into him/her and if you leave all eventualities out of it, you might very well not die lonely without having known love. But that is – honestly – pretty unlikely.
Highly recommended lie: But no, such nonsense!!! It’s just a matter of time. Besides, I don’t see what’s not to love about you! I mean… they’re all blind. And deaf. And stupid! And anyway, I’m sure you’ll meet the love of your life very soon.
Your partner: You’re the most important thing in the world to me, honey!
The honest answer: Well, next to the kids, my parents, my mates, my career, the new flat-screen TV, the car and my record collection, you rank somewhere in the top ten or twelve things in my life.
Highly recommended lie: And you just as much for me!!!! The most important thing of all! (An intimate kiss of unconditional lovers follows).
Friend Y: What do you think of my new, awesome outfit?
The honest answer: Well, it’s really tight around your belly and you should probably get off your ass and go to the gym before you dare to wear something like that.
Highly recommended lie: Wow! You look completely changed, looks great on you!
He after sex: How was I?
The honest answer: It was okay, I mean, I didn’t come and my ex definitely has it better, but it was nice.
DESPERATELY recommended lie: It was totally nice! Feeling you, that closeness… It was… so uh I just don’t have the words!
Mark: A fake orgasm is sometimes a greater sign of true love than honestly revealed unwillingness….
You think someone is hot, even though he / she isn’t really your type….
Your date/new partner: Say, your ex was the opposite of me on the outside, do you actually like me?
The honest answer: Actually, I like blond, slim, sporty, short hair… you are dark-haired, have quite a mane and sport would really do you good. To get to the point: you’re not my type on the outside, but I find you totally nice and charming. That just makes up for it for me.
(Even if the last part is a compliment…. Sorry, but no man wants to hear that, let alone a woman).
Recommended half-lie (focus on something you actually find beautiful e.g. the eyes): Well, I really like your eyes, your look is really damn sexy. Besides, I don’t really have a steady type… *cough*
You see a friend again after a long time. He/she has put on a lot of weight and you silently think to yourself: Oh my God, you looked better before…
Your friend: Tell me, do you think I’ve become fat? I feel really ugly now.
Honest answer: Indeed! You should really lose some weight and not let yourself go like that. I mean, you look really unhealthy and definitely not as attractive as you used to.
Recommended half-lie: No, nonsense, you’re not too fat at all! Nobody has a model figure anyway. I mean, the important thing is that you feel comfortable with your body. If that’s not the case, then you can try sport and a balanced diet. But in my opinion, you don’t have to change anything about your appearance.
Note: For most people who already have problems with their body, it doesn’t help at all if you encourage them. Even though that might be the hard-core honest answer. But it is also a kick in the self-confidence and creates more frustration than it helps. The half-lie, on the other hand, includes the possibility of change without presenting the status quo as a big problem.
Your date / partner: How many sex partners have you actually had before me?
Honest answer: Do you mean now in the month before or…? Oh, all in all! Phew, I’ll have to add it up first… Oh, another question: at what point does it count as sex for you?
Recommended lie: You know that I only had one relationship before you… And well, after that one party I ended up in bed with someone once. So two *cringe*.
OK, with the latter question it depends extremely on a) what your honest answer would be and b) how you think your new flame would react to it. Your gut feeling will probably tell you how open you can be. But if the number of sex partners is in double or even triple figures, then it can be very sobering!
Friend XYZ: How nice that we can tell each other everything. I mean, we really don’t have any secrets from each other. Do we??
The honest answer: Of course! So at least I have plenty of secrets from you. Do you think I’ll tell you, for example, that I’ve had a sexual dream with your boyfriend? Or that I was always jealous of your grades? Or that I fell against your car when I was drunk and made a dent in it? Or that…. Uh, oops…
The recommended lie: Of course, there’s nothing about me that you don’t know!
Your (long-term) partner: What actually bothers you most about me?
The honest answer: Where should I start…?? Those noises you always make when you eat, but wait, that’s not the worst…. The fact that you keep interrupting me…. It’s awful. Your pushy way of making yourself the centre of attention whenever we’re in company…. oh and of course your unbearable whining about how bad it was at the office again – I can’t hear it anymore! Oh, but worst of all………
The highly recommended lie: What bothers me about you? Oh god, I’ll have to think about that one…. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Well, a few little things but nothing really important.
Friend XYZ: Will you come over to my place tonight? I’d really appreciate it.
The honest answer: My day was stressful enough today and you are just damn exhausting. Besides, I’ve just put my feet up and really don’t feel like leaving the flat again now.
The recommended half-lie: I’m really sorry, but I’m completely exhausted, I feel really weak. Maybe I’ll even get sick, there’s so much going around again at the moment. And I don’t want to infect you, so just in case… you understand.
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