When Not to Tell the Whole Truth
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Nice Lies1 of 12
By Brett Smiley
April 30 is National Honesty Day, and while honesty is a great practice, it’s not always practical. In fact, sometimes telling the whole truth can do more harm than good. Don Marsh, in his book How to Be Rude Politely, shares his tips on how to resolve these moral dilemmas — here’s his advice for escaping ten common would-be messes without causing offense.
Forced Cooing2 of 12
Some people just don’t like babies or don’t have time to fawn — a difficult notion for proud parents to accept. Marsh’s surefire way to avoid a prolonged session of infant ogling is to say, “My, he/she looks very alert.” He says, “The beauty of the phrase is that it implies intelligence. Parents accept it willingly as not only a confirmation of what they already know, but because it suggests a favorable reflection upon themselves.”
Unwelcome Invites3 of 12
The problem with being invited to an undesirable event is the unanticipated nature of said invitation, Marsh explains. “You must have your response so ingrained, so automatic and so spontaneous that it comes out as naturally as the very breath you take,” he says. And the response must be versatile and plausible, and something you can change your mind about later. Something like an elective surgery.
Unwanted Tasks4 of 12
Similarly, when you need to get out of going somewhere, “never make an excuse which can be effectively challenged, or which can proven to be a lie,” Marsh says. “A certain degree of improbability always adds to the authenticity of your excuse.” Among the gems on his winning list of improbable excuses for all occasions? Say that you have been requested to take part in a police lineup because you resemble a suspect.
Dull Parties5 of 12
To make an exit from a boring party, he suggests planting a seed early on, with a showy display of a personal electronic device. Then, at the critical time, unveil your digital savior and act like there’s an emergency. If the host is not within an earshot, he advises “simply go to them, say the word, ‘Emergency,’ and let your, and their, imagination be the guide for the rest of it.”
Philandering Friends6 of 12
Discovering a friend or relative is cheating is an unfortunate and uncomfortable scenario. Marsh’s philosophy is to seek an advantage in all things, so if you spot someone you know carousing with a young punk or smooching some blond, then simply say nothing. Let the philanderer worry about it. That way, you maintain control over that person and avoid creating problems for yourself.
Awkward Humanity7 of 12
Passing gas, while humorous and sometimes unpleasant, it’s part of being human. But you must address it without delay, or suffer some gastro-intestinal discomfort that could evolve into serious pain. The key here is to distance yourself from the deed, Marsh says: “If outside, it is advisable to be aware of wind conditions at all times. Place yourself downwind from companions.”
Boring Conversations8 of 12
We’ve all been trapped conversations that feel like black holes of boredom. One escape method that Marsh suggests is to shift the topic of conversation to yourself. “If people enjoy talking to you about themselves or the things that interest them, it follows that they will not enjoy it if you force the conversation into a discussion of you and your interests,” he says. “It should bring the entire conversation to a rather abrupt conclusion.”
Overlooked Dates9 of 12
When you’ve forgotten an anniversary or an important occasion, “there is no painless way out of this memory morass,” Marsh says. But, if you notice that you are getting the cold shoulder or being treated with hostility by your partner, then he says that you should feign physical discomfort immediately. Men, however, are on their own, unless they’ve stashed a card and a gift around the house.
Age Games10 of 12
Compliments, graciousness and diplomacy are Marsh’s three overarching principles for when someone asks you to guess his or her age. “You must remember that women like to be told they seem younger. Men like to be told they are in terrific shape for whatever age they are (Always guess low),” he says. He disapproves of anyone 13 or older asking you to guess their age, though, because vanity is the motive.
Forgotten Names11 of 12
It takes some finesse to avoid awkwardness or embarrassment when you blank on a person’s name, if you can even recall where you met. “First, smile broadly,” Marsh says. “You must give the impression you are happy to see him again. It will disarm him.” Then, go in for the kill: “‘You know, my father and you share the same name,’ you say.” His or her response (more often than not) will be to say their name. Rejoice.
More Ways to Be Rude, Politely12 of 12
For further advice on how to get out of these and many other unpleasant situations without drama, check out Don Marsh's book.
SHOP NOW: How to Be Rude Politely, $16