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Author Topic: Morals behind White Lies/Sugar Coating
shadowland
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quote:
Originally posted by Rawrain:
The big question is whether lying to make someone to make them feel better, a better choice then telling the truth and making them feel bad.

Why limit yourself to just those two options?
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Rawrain
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Because typing out all of the options would take forever, that at least casts a general idea.
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Herblay
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quote:
Originally posted by Rawrain:
The big question is whether lying to make someone to make them feel better, a better choice then telling the truth and making them feel bad.

In this case, it's only better to tell the truth (and make them feel bad) if there's a good reason to.

Do you think it will change their behavior, or will it just make them feel bad? Will it harm your relationship? What do you gain by hurting them? What would you gain by lying or keeping quiet? Is it your place to be addressing or redressing their behavior / self-image / past choices? Are you doing it for you or for them?

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Rawrain
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For my girlfriend and family I would rather give them the real truth, I could tell them what they want to here, but that's not always what they need to hear...

Example: Trying to get tubby to exercise.

You can tell them that it's unhealthy and they need exercise.

You could ask them to go for walks without explaining to them what you're doing so tubby is becoming more active without knowing it.

You could tell tubby he looks fine the way he does and that he's healthier than a horse.

There are many ways to go about this, but I prefer the simple one, TUBBY GET YOUR ASS ON THAT TREADMILL AND EAT HEALTHY.

Of course if I was scary and intimidating this might work, I am not so me saying it is useless, but I still try. Tubby can be upset about what I said and do nothing, do nothing and not be upset, or at least give it an effort.

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Herblay
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Would it be your place to judge or tell them what to do?

Repeated behavior in that manner might constitute abuse.

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Rawrain
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It depends who they are to me, I don't just jump at strangers and tell them what they need to do, only people I am concerned for.
(but this means I do care about people, yes in a small way I care about any nice person)


AS for anyone who wonders why I joined this forum, it was to talk about Ender and Shadow saga's, but that part of the forum is close to dead.

[ November 10, 2010, 03:08 PM: Message edited by: Rawrain ]

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TomDavidson
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quote:
I prefer the simple one, TUBBY GET YOUR ASS ON THAT TREADMILL AND EAT HEALTHY.
Let me know if that ever works.
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lem
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quote:
The big question is whether lying to make someone to make them feel better, a better choice then telling the truth and making them feel bad.
I thought the point was being brutally honest was "simpler to understand, and simpler to say, so it's actually easier to be brutal."

Out of all the reasons to be brutal I would think "clarity" would be pretty far down the list, making your communication style more confusing and less effective. If you are only concerned with how easy it is for YOU to communicate what's on your mind instead of how the message will be received, then I would chalk that up as another indicator of a young immature person or someone with sociopathic tendencies.

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Herblay
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In completely unrelated news, I can't get this song out of my head:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvcJqcUlYTo

Dang it Dora! My kids don't even watch this stupid show anymore.

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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
There are many ways to go about this, but I prefer the simple one, TUBBY GET YOUR ASS ON THAT TREADMILL AND EAT HEALTHY.
Out of all the options you provided, this one seems the least likely to result in the desired outcome (getting them to exercise). Yes, I'm including the option where you tell them they don't need to exercise.
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Armoth
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Rawrain, the best way to get tubby to exercise is to imagine that YOU are tubby. Why the heck aren't you exercising?

Are you a complete MORON that you didn't realize that you were so fat?

Or are you engaged in self-deception that makes you feel better about who you are so that you can be fat and lazy and not feel bad about it?

Or is it genetic? Insurmountable?

It's usually not that you're a moron, and so your alerting them to the fact usually wont help things. Lying to them wont help things either - you're just helping them lie to themselves as well.

And one last thing: Even if you are uber-sensitive in communicating, people's struggles are ultimately up to themselves. You can't change anyone, they have to do all the changing on their own. You can sensitively alert them to problems, help them along, but if they don't want to change, they ain't gonna.

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Darth_Mauve
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quote:
The big question is whether lying to make someone to make them feel better, a better choice then telling the truth and making them feel bad.
That would be an interesting conversation. See the first few episodes of Lie To Me season 1.

But the conversation you are having is a bit different. You seem to be saying that you can't be bothered to lie, that you don't care if your message has is acted upon, and that the only way you count your conversation as effective is if it gets your opinion across.

Well yes, if they only thing important to you is to get your point of view out to others--even if it is ignored, then brutal shocking truth will work.

However, if you want your opinion acted upon it is totally ineffective.

The first time you call someone "Tubby" they will quit listening to you. You say that your sister spends too much time worrying about her appearance. That is your opinion and when you start telling her your opinion, she stops listening. She will only listen again if you actually stop trolling and get back on the subject of her present appearance.

This relates to one of my pet theories--about Blame. Laying Blame has only one use...it frees you from having to help solve the problem.

You tell your sister she worries too much about her looks--your done. You don't have to help her be any less shallow. You tell Tubby to diet or die, your done. If he dies at your feet, well its his fault for not listening to you.

Its a great way to free yourself from having to help your fellow man.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
In my experience, you can safely replace "when you get to know me..." with "I'm too lazy or selfish to actually..." in most sentences.

Pay no attention to TomDavidson, Rawrain- he's a nice guy once you get to know him... :ducks:
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Rawrain:

Of course if I was scary and intimidating this might work, I am not so me saying it is useless, but I still try. Tubby can be upset about what I said and do nothing, do nothing and not be upset, or at least give it an effort.

On a more serious note, I may have been wrong about you. It may not be that you are just immature and selfish. It may be that you are seriously lacking in basic empathy, and have a regard for yourself so deeply distorted that you are not even aware that you are incapable of making the false impression of mature comportment and even-handedness on this forum that you believe you are making.

I suggest you stop. I suggest you listen.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Rawrain:
Due to how well a debate(?) about this was going in another topic I decide to drag that tangent over to its own topic so it can be discussed through and through.

As I stand, I believe brutal honesty is just as effective (and may not be considered as nice) as sugar coating the truth.

I also believe both of these methods of persuasion do not always have the desired effect that a person assumes.

( I would also like to point out my brutal honesty isn't just saying what the problem is at hand, I also use metaphors and sarcasm as my medium to make the truth easier to understand(and I also do it, because I can't control it /: ))

- I need some examples /: I'm too lazy to type some and I am pressed for time, my breaks are only 10 minutes every hour... from 45 to 55 on de-clock.

quote:
Originally posted by Rawrain:
I'm more upset about wasted time, I have a girlfriend who gives me* all the attention I need .-.

...

I'm going to guess you're ... 19 years old.

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El JT de Spang
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
Isn't the assumption that being rude will hurt someone's feelings? And wouldn't intentionally hurting someone's feelings be bad?
Not necessarily. Or, rather, that might be the assumption, but it might be wrong -- and even if it's right, intentionally hurting someone might still be the least of a number of possible harms.

That said, choosing to potentially inflict harm when there is no possible gain to anyone by doing so is pretty difficult to justify.

Right. Being rude might be the smallest of harms, and even if it does hurt someone's feelings that could be morally neutral or even positive if it accomplishes a bigger goal. But I can't see how you can guarantee that to the point that rudeness, in and of itself, is morally neutral.

I would think it's a bit to situational for that to really apply.

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Herblay
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I say 16.
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Armoth
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Definitely <19.
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mr_porteiro_head
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Much like the selfish "blunt honesty" described, I think it highly unlikely that this purposely insulting speculation on the poster's age will accomplish anything positive.
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Samprimary
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Imagine that we're right, and he's a teen. In which case he can benefit from wondering what it is about his mannerisms or Crusade for Blunterer Truth which are such a giveaway for his relative immaturity.

There's a more substantive criticism of his whole idea, but that's largely been covered.

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mr_porteiro_head
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Yes, I can imagine situations where it could help. I can also imagine situations where the "blunt honesty" could help.

But in both situations, I think the odds are vanishingly small.

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Drifter
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I think he'd like to be thought of as nineteen.

The difference between 'blunt honesty' and 'insult'
is whether the opinion of the giver of the blunt honesty was sought.

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The Rabbit
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I think its highly unfortunate that so many of us arguing against the morality of being "brutally honest", are treating Rawrain so brutally.

I have a few questions for Rawrain.

First, In your mind, what is morality? Beyond this particular issue, how do you judge whether or not any act is "moral" or "immoral".

Second, What do you mean by being "brutally honest"? There is certainly a very wide spectrum between saying "You're disgustingly obese, get off your fat butt you lazy pig and get some exercise" and saying "No you aren't fat, you're just naturally big boned."

Third, Accurately communicating how we feel about people and things is at least as important to honesty as accurately communicating what we think about people and events. Let me give an example. I like my husband to give me presents, any kind of presents. If he gives me something I don't particularly like, it doesn't really matter. I like that he gave it to me. If I tell him, "Thank you so much but I really don't like the color", all he will hear is that I didn't like the gift. I know him well enough to know he won't hear how much I enjoyed being given the gift, which is true and is to me much more important than whether the gift was the right color. So I'm not going to ever tell him I didn't like the color, because though its factually correct -- what it communicates would not be true.

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advice for robots
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:




I suggest you stop. I suggest you listen.

You forgot "collaborate."
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Olivet
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quote:
Originally posted by mr_porteiro_head:
quote:
There are many ways to go about this, but I prefer the simple one, TUBBY GET YOUR ASS ON THAT TREADMILL AND EAT HEALTHY.
Out of all the options you provided, this one seems the least likely to result in the desired outcome (getting them to exercise). Yes, I'm including the option where you tell them they don't need to exercise.
This. It all depends on what your goal is. Do you actually want them to listen to you and take steps to correct the problem (as you see it)? Or is your bottom line something else?

If your highest value is being true to yourself, I can see picking brutal honesty. If your highest value is harmony, accomplishing a particular end or, basically, anything other than absolute personal authenticity, then that option has significantly less appeal.

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Rakeesh
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quote:

If your highest value is being true to yourself, I can see picking brutal honesty. If your highest value is harmony, accomplishing a particular end or, basically, anything other than absolute personal authenticity, then that option has significantly less appeal.

This is basically it for me, with an addition: look at the people in the world who really accomplish things, especially when it comes to getting others to do what they want them to do, particularly by simple persuasion. How many of them adopt the methods you're espousing, Rawrain?

Answer that question using the exact methods you're espousing, please, and the discussion should take an interesting turn, because if you do answer honestly instead of beating around the bush, we'll get to what Olivet was saying: what your true motives are.

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AvidReader
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On a different track, I have trouble with honesty because my point of view tends to be so different from other people's.

I've decided there's an imaginary box around people that their reality fits in. And everyone likes honesty that fits into their box of reality. I'm not sure if most people's realities tend to align or if others have a sixth sense of where the lines are that I absolutely did not get. But either way, I try to be tactfully honest and still end up pissing people off by presenting them with information they really don't want to process.

It's fairly frustrating to try to do right and frequently have it still be wrong. Mostly I've decided that "honest opinion" is just some kind of oxymoron. [Smile]

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Hobbes
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I agree with the several others who have said the original question was more interesting as a discussion topic, so I think I'll talk about that. But not before repeating what has already been said by multiple people. [Smile]

Though I'm big on honesty I rarely (i.e. no one I remember ever) like people who describe themselves as being 'brutally honest'. I've liked some people others describe that way, which is good because some people describe me that way. However, whenever I hear anyone talk about themselves that way it's always been followed by a clear demonstration that what they really mean is that they are constantly insulting people and using that as their get-out-of-jail-free card when confronted. I've also noticed these people tend to get along very poorly with others like them.

As with everyone else I agree there's multiple ways to tell the truth some being more effective than others (of course depending on your goals as said above). However, I wonder what circumstances we're thinking of here. The examples all seem to be unsolicited advice, which I find interesting.

So moving into the question I'd rather talk about (the morality of 'white lies') I'm pretty up in the air. Which is why I'd like to hear more discussion about it. For me it comes up a heck of a lot more with response to questions than initial statements. When I see someone overweight my first thought has never been 'how do I tell them their overweight and need help?', ever. I do get asked by people if they're fat though, which I find a much more tricky situation.

My strategy most of the time is active avoidance. Answer the question so they think you've answered it but you really haven't. Most people aren't trying to press for specific answers in these situations anyways so they can feel good about my positive reinforcement and I can feel good that I didn't lie to them. Maybe this is an ethically questionable practice for others: misleading those deliberately being as bad as lying all that, but I don't have a problem with it. However, if I'm ever pressed for a direct answer, my policy is always, always tell the truth. I feel good about that too: so that people can have confidence in what I say to know I'll never lie to them. It means when I do say something positive (e.g. "no, you really do look good in that skirt") they can trust I mean it.

I'm comfortable with this position and I'm not likely to change it, but it's a for me only policy and I haven't made up my mind on others. The truth is I do enjoy having friends who I know will provide positive reinforcement to the point of white lies to me. Sometimes it's very encouraging when I'm down and really just want to feel better rather than address the fact that I should take at least 15 pounds off. But the flip side is I never quite trust their praise either, so when I do do something I think is great my enjoyment of their compliments is always tempered. It leaves me unsure.

Hobbes [Smile]

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The Rabbit
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quote:
When I see someone overweight my first thought has never been 'how do I tell them their overweight and need help?', ever. I do get asked by people if they're fat though, which I find a much more tricky situation.
You know, I don't think anyone has ever asked me if I thought they were over weight.

On second thought, my husband does occasionally ask me if he's getting fat but since he has a BMI of about 20, the answer's always "don't be ridiculous". (Bike racers [Roll Eyes] )

But with that exception, no one has ever asked me if I think they are over weight.

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Hobbes
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Well, thinking about it I guess technically the question I'm asked is almost always "do I look fat?", rather than "am I fat?" (or "am I overweight?"). Just as often though, the question is posed in the form of a statement they clearly want me to rebut and is then normally an "am" rather than "look". For instance: "Ughh! I'm so fat!" or "I've put on so much weight since I stopped jogging and now I'm overweight!"

Hobbes [Smile]

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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
Just as often though, the question is posed in the form of a statement they clearly want me to rebut and is then normally an "am" rather than "look". For instance: "Ughh! I'm so fat!" or "I've put on so much weight since I stopped jogging and now I'm overweight!"
As a general rule, I refuse to answer such non-questions.
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AvidReader
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I've asked if I've gotten too heavy for a particular piece of clothing before. And I really do want an honest answer there because there's a fine line between sexy snug and oops snug.
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Hobbes
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quote:
Originally posted by mr_porteiro_head:
quote:
Just as often though, the question is posed in the form of a statement they clearly want me to rebut and is then normally an "am" rather than "look". For instance: "Ughh! I'm so fat!" or "I've put on so much weight since I stopped jogging and now I'm overweight!"
As a general rule, I refuse to answer such non-questions.
I have the same approach, MPH.

I would like to hear opinions on the actual thread's title though. The morality of white lies versus telling the truth (in as polite and circumspect way as possible).

Hobbes [Smile]

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Armoth
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I think that it's a very utilitarian game - trying to figure out what would produce the best result.

I thing it's good to go with lying as generally bad - mostly because we're just not good enough at it that it doesn't have some sort of negative effect on others or on ourselves.

There are times when the white lie is good. Like for the sake of family peace and harmony, sometimes a white lie is good. Excessive lying is probably a bad idea. If you always tell your wife that her cooking is great, it kind of loses the power to be complimentary. But saying that you don't like something can be done in a way in which you don't hurt the other person's feelings and you gain credibility at the same time.

All in all, I'd say sugar-coating is more effective than white lies. White lies should be used very very sparingly.

As for morality? I don't think sugar coating is lying - I think it is simply being sensitive to another person's emotional state.

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DDDaysh
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quote:
Originally posted by Armoth:

There are times when the white lie is good. Like for the sake of family peace and harmony, sometimes a white lie is good. Excessive lying is probably a bad idea. If you always tell your wife that her cooking is great, it kind of loses the power to be complimentary. But saying that you don't like something can be done in a way in which you don't hurt the other person's feelings and you gain credibility at the same time.

The things is, there is generally middle ground in many situations and, of course, the option of just keeping our mouths shut.

For instance, you don't always have to tell your wife that her cooking is great. If dinner wasn't all that good, but you still want her to feel good about cooking it, a simple, "Thanks for dinner Love" can accomplish that. It expresses your gratitude without inflating your "dinner goodness currency".

Even if she specifically had asked you what you thought of dinner, there are ways around it. There are things like, "It was nice for variety, but you know my favorite will always be your meatloaf."

I guess that's the whole thing about being brutally honest in most situations. Sometimes it HAS to happen, sometimes the shock value is necessary. If someone is doing something reckless and dangerous and all the *less direct* options have failed in the past, it's sometimes worth trying the "brutally honest" approach. It won't always work, but sometimes it can crack a shell of self deception that wasn't with gentler methods. Most of the time, however, there isn't any need for it. You don't need to go around shocking people and creating rough edges.

As for other "little white lies", that's a totally different ball game. I'm certainly guilty of them from time to time. It is a little bit of a slippery slope, because the justification of them is generally to make life easier and/or more pleasant without creating any real harm. That's not a very objective qualification though, since I'm sure some of the Enron execs were trying to hide behind those same excuses in their own consciences when they pulled their schemes. How do you keep the lies to being truly "little and white"?

Several little white lies that I've told include:

Lying about how much a gift cost. My parents frequently ask me this question because they're scared of me spending too much money on them. The thing is, it isn't REALLY ok to get them nothing, and I don't want to always get them crap, so... sometimes the gift gets deflated by about 20%.

Lying about why/which doctor I went to. Our coworkers are all pretty close, so when people miss work, it's only out of concern that people ask why. They just want to know if they can help, and I know I've asked coworkers too. However, there are some problems I'd rather keep to myself, so I'll fib a little, or just say "nothing serious" (even in a few times when it was actually pretty serious). I could, of course, say something more "honest" like "Mind your own business" or even "I'm not comfortable talking about it", but even the kinder of the two can feel like a rebuke of the person who asked the question, and I don't want to do that. I APPRECIATE the fact that my co-workers care about me, and I don't want to make them feel bad about being concerned.

And, of course, I regularly lie to my son! We're still doing Santa Clause, St Nick, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy!

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Orincoro
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"For instance, you don't always have to tell your wife that her cooking is great. If dinner wasn't all that good, but you still want her to feel good about cooking it, a simple, "Thanks for dinner Love" can accomplish that. It expresses your gratitude without inflating your "dinner goodness currency"."

I dunno, my Dad's been inflating that currency for years, but the benefit of owning the mint is that he just gets to keep printing more, and my Mom is satisfied. Whatever works, I say.

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