Some lies don’t hurt anyone: “Hey, boss, you look great in bangs!” “Absolutely, honey, Ryan Gosling is overrated.” But as an expert panel of truth-tellers explains, a few topics always warrant honesty.

By Stephanie Booth
Updated July 10, 2013
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Illustration of glasses with fake nose, eyebrows, and mustache
Credit: Shout

1. Your Work History

It’s not uncommon to make a few strategic tweaks when putting together a résumé. “Grocery-store clerk” might become “customer-service agent with ability to manage difficult interactions,” for instance. That’s acceptable. But if you lie, there’s a high chance that you’ll get caught. Most employers run background checks on potential hires and search for them on YouTube, Google, and Facebook. If they find anything amiss or inconsistent, a candidate is perceived as dishonest and doesn’t get the position. Or worse, the job offer is revoked. Trust me: There’s no more humiliating way to lose a career opportunity. It’s better to just be honest.

Lora Poepping is the founder of Plum Job Search Strategies, in Seattle. A former senior recruiter for Microsoft, she has reviewed thousands of résumés over the past 20 years.

2. Your Health

For most people, no matter how they’re feeling, their default response to “How are you?” is “Fine.” Why? Our instinct is to hide problems from others. We worry that we’re oversharing or that others will pity us. But when you’re ailing, physically or mentally, you need your friends. So the next time, admit it: “I could be better. I’m going through some challenges right now.” People will want to help make your life easier. And having that support system is certainly preferable to suffering alone—or waiting for another version of the truth to come out as gossip.

Jacqueline Whitmore is an etiquette authority and the founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach, based in Florida.

3. Your Free Time

So many of us believe that the more hectic our schedule, the better we are as workers or mothers. That’s why we say we’re crazy busy even when we’re not. But constantly proclaiming that you have zero time can become a self-fulfilling prophecy: You’ll feel like a scattered mess. False busyness can also erode your relationships. Others lose trust in you when you “don’t have time” to volunteer for your child’s sports team but somehow get to the gym four days a week. Instead of making time your scapegoat, set better boundaries. Even if people don’t want to hear you say no to that request for volunteers, they’ll appreciate your straightforwardness.

Jennifer Ford Berry is a professional organizer and the author of the best-selling Organize Now! series (from $15 at She lives in Attica, New York.

4. Your Guilty Pleasures

Years ago I took Howard Stern’s autobiography on an airplane. I was a big fan, but I was so worried that people would think poorly of me for liking him that I slipped off the dust jacket and kept the book in my lap the entire flight. We’re all prone to hiding the parts of ourselves that we worry others may judge and find lacking. But over time I came to realize that it’s far more empowering to be transparent. So I started telling friends: Yes, I listen to Howard Stern. I also read celebrity magazines and enjoy store-bought cookies frosted in colors not found in nature. With those kinds of admissions, we can have deeper conversations about the things that really matter.

Patti Digh is the author of Life Is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful, and Live Intentionally ($20, and the creator of the Design Your Life Camp, a life-coaching program. She lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

5. Your Struggles

In this age of Pinterest-worthy toddler birthday parties and curated Facebook news feeds, we’re trained to show others only our best sides. So I was genuinely shocked when a close friend recently admitted that her marriage was in trouble. Listening to her speak candidly—and not try to sugarcoat what was happening—pushed me to take a more honest look at my own relationship. Soon after that, my husband and I began counseling. If for no other reason, sharing your failures allows others to learn from your mistakes.

Robin O’Bryant, a humorist, is the author of Ketchup Is a Vegetable: And Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves ($15, She lives in Greenwood, Mississippi.