When Honesty Is Not the Best Policy

Honesty Is Not the Best Policy

It is widely accepted that honesty is the best policy. I, however, do not agree. Early in my career as a mommy-blogger, I addressed this topic in a post I wrote about an exchange that took place twenty-five years ago between me and my then three year-old son. (NOTE: I was eight months pregnant at the time.)



“I’m thorry to tell you thith, but your butt’s pretty big.”

(See NOTE above.)


“Yeth, Mommy.”

“If you can’t say something nice to someone, you shouldn’t say anything. This is an important rule because it helps us not to hurt other people’s feelings. Do you understand?”

“Yeth, Mommy.”

“Good. I have one more rule for you. If you ever want to tell a girl something about the way she looks and you feel it’s best to start with ‘I’m sorry to have to tell you this,’ it’s probably better not to tell her.”

The title of that post is IYCSSN as in, If You Can’t Say Something Nice. Anyway, you can read the entire thing here, but the main point is this: if you simply cannot bring yourself to say a single nice thing to or about someone, just don’t say anything. Period. Keep your mouth shut. Think before you speak. Filter. Stata zitto! Whatever.

The inspiration to revisit this topic in a new blog post came to me a few weeks ago after I randomly bumped into a ballroom dance friend at the grocery store. I was standing in line at the self check-out when from behind me I heard a familiar voice shout, “I liked you better as a redhead!” This came as a bit of a shock because at the time of the encounter, I was sporting my current trendy, blonde pixie and fancied myself rather cute. I quickly calculated it had been over a year since my hair had been any shade of red (I have a penchant for trying new hair styles and colors) which meant it had been at least that long since I’d seen this friend. Given the timeline she could have said, “Fancy meeting you here!” or “How the heck are you?!” or any one of a long list of things people say when they run into someone they haven’t seen for a very, very long time and yet she chose, “I liked you better as a redhead.” Waltz. Tango. Foxtrot.

My immediate, knee-jerk reaction was to respond with something snarky like,”and I liked you better before you started talking,” but I didn’t (f-you-can’t-say-something-nice-if-you-can’t-say-something-nice-if-you-can’t-say-something-nice). Instead I bit then inside of my cheek, smiled and simply said, “It’s nice to see you.”

We chatted for a bit while completing our transactions and as we exited the store I even began to suspect her comment was just playful teasing. Turns out I was wrong though, because the first words out of her mouth when she spotted The Dancing Doc (who’d been waiting for me out in the parking) were “I told your wife I liked her better as a redhead.” The Doc replied, “She’s so pretty, it doesn’t matter how she wears her hair.” Smart man. I rest my case. Honesty is not always the best policy.

The exception to the IYCSSN Rule: Deliberate or Implicit Solicitation of Opinions

There is one exception to the if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything rule. When someone solicits your opinion they forfeit the rights and protections afforded by this polite maxim. If you can’t find anything nice to say, you may, no you are obligated, to be honest no matter how painful.  For example, when I shop for clothing, I may try on a dress and ask my shopping companion how it looks on me. If I am going to spend hard earned cash on something, I don’t want to get home, try it on in good lighting and discover I look like a cow. I expect honesty, no matter how brutal, and I am not allowed to get mad or be offended. Gentlemen, please note there is one critically important exception to the exception. It is known as the Does-This-Make-My-Butt-Look-Fat Rule.

Image Credit: www.sodahead.com

Does-This-Make-My-Butt-Look-Fat Rule: Just Say No

If your wife, girlfriend or dance partner deliberately or implicitly solicits your opinion on whether an article of clothing makes her butt look fat, ALWAYS SAY NO. Even if her butt does indeed look fat, JUST SAY NO. If her butt looks so incredibly fat that she should not be allowed to leave the house or step on the dance floor, you must still say NO and find an alternate way to address this problem. You might try, “Honey, your butt doesn’t look fat. In fact you’re so pretty I want to keep you all to myself. How about we stay home tonight, carry out Chinese and watch a chick flick?” If she is your dance partner and this happens at a competition, try leading her into the darkest corner of the dance floor… away from spectators… and judges… and mirrors.

Let me emphasize, I did not solicit my friend’s opinion. At no point during our conversation did I utter anything remotely close to, “Do you like my hair?” She just blurted it out. I really like this gal so honestly it was kind of weird. Still, ever since it happened I’ve been replaying the incident over and over in my head, unable to fathom what compelled her to make the comment not just once, BUT TWICE and imagining all sorts of snappy comebacks, but what I really should have said was, “FYI…honesty is not always the best policy.”

#IYCSSN  #IfYouCan’tSaySomethingNice  #WaltzTangoFoxtrot


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