Lies, white lies, fibs… Are any of these different? When is it okay not to speak the truth?

As per the first question, I will let the guilty boyfriends, husbands, girlfriends, and wives of this world enlighten us with the nuances. As per the second question, read on.

Can you handle the truth?

People lie whether or not feelings and emotions are involved; sometimes we lie because we do not want to hurt others, while other times we don’t want to hurt ourselves. Sometimes we fear the consequences of the truth, other times we just simply do not think of the consequences.

The main difference between lying in social circles and professional ones is that the former involves emotions whereas the latter is less sentimental and more result-oriented. Surely you have lied to friends because you wanted to be with the girlfriend, or you have told the girlfriend that you would be heading to bed early when you knew that you were planning a night out with the boys.

While these white lies or fibs are lies any way you look at them, the fact of the matter is that, depending on the social setting and circumstances of the relationship, things can go in just about any direction. Who knew that the girlfriend would choose to flip out now and not later? Surely you have been caught in bigger lies before. Emotions mean instability and unpredictability, that is why.

It’s a question of trust

Business, as you can expect, is different. We have discussed in great length what matters in business: respect, trust, confidence, honesty, and candor. There may be many other factors, but ultimately, business is about the bottom line, and while it may make sense for matters of negotiation and diplomacy to be less than 100% open, again, it is one thing to disclose the truth systematically and another thing to lie.

In fact, a number of top business leaders recently discussed the importance of honesty and candor when it comes to mergers and acquisitions, since withholding important matters usually means that surprises will probably hinder discussions down the road.

White lies, black truth

While I will not insult your intelligence and say that I never lie, I would add that I hate lying. I hate it because lying is the surefire way of having conflicting stories, causing you to slip, fall and make a fool of yourself.

Tell someone one thing, and like a game of broken telephone, the story gets distorted galore, but when push comes to shove, you can still connect the dots and set matters straight. Tell two people different things and surely you will get nailed. The thing is that some people — the shrewd and calculating ones — can get out of the lie by laying the sympathetic bed, playing with emotions and hitting someone’s weak spot.

Business people usually care little and show emotions even less. Yes, businesses are always built upon friendships, but you have surely seen best of friends turn into bitter enemies. One reason is always money disputes. But therein lies another factor, and that is that someone told a lie. And in business, when everyone has a certain area of responsibility and trust is tantamount, telling a lie, especially to a colleague or partner, is the equivalent of stabbing someone in the back.

When is it okay to lie?

Diluted honesty

Yes, men are sometimes (okay, often) told to be less than 100% truthful with their wives or girlfriends, and Lord knows that women also lie like there is no tomorrow to get what they want, but I cannot say that I agree with lying to a life partner. Think of it; your girlfriend or wife is, at least theoretically, your partner and your peer. Would you lie to a doctor? Hopefully not, then why lie to your woman?

I personally feel guilt and remorse when telling a lie, hence the reason I prefer to face the music and be truthful. And let’s be realistic; being honest is the only way that you do not lose face. Imagine what happens when the truth does rise to the surface. What then? How do you explain the change in tune? Were you misunderstood, did they not listen, or are you a big fat liar whose pants are on fire?

That’s my boy

Yeah, you know which one. Again, lie to your dad or mom, and they may be disappointed, but they will still love you and accept you anyway. But lie to your boss and you can count on suddenly becoming your own boss… well, sort of. And once you are labeled a liar in the workplace, well, unless you wish to go into law (okay, low blow), then you can kiss your career goodbye.

Monopoly of lies

Some may be saying: but what about all the men that have lied and made it to the top? Remember when Bill Gates was being cross-examined? On the stand, he seemed clueless, but was he? Of course not.

Is this the lying we are talking about? No, Gates was playing a game, and so long as everyone knows that you are playing a role, then it is acceptable. Am I contradicting myself? Sort of, but at least I am not lying. It’s like being asked, “Are you going to buy your competitor?” Surely you would love to say yes, but you simply cannot, as you are playing along with the media and analysts.

The point is that sometimes you are asked questions and people may not hear what they wish to hear, but they do wish and demand to hear the truth. Information is key, after all, in making rational and optimal decisions, and you withholding the truth, especially when it pertains to them, is disrespectful and unethical.

So when push comes to shove, make sure that you do not tell a lie even if you cannot be 100% honest. Can you handle that?

Ash Karbasfrooshan is also the author of Course To Success, available at