Later in life as I became, I hope, wiser and began to realize that there was more to communication than raw truth, I came across the rule of True, Kind, Necessary, which is a more sophisticated rule similar in spirit to the Thumper Rule. If you google for true, kind, necessary you will get a lot of hits. Although this guideline has been around for a long time (as far back as Socrates and his Triple Filter test), none of the postings I happened to read described the rule in quite the way that I originally heard it or interpret it for my personal use:
When making a statement, particularly about the person to whom you are speaking, consider whether that statement is true, kind, or necessary:The guideline as I originally heard it was actually a bit different than what I have listed above:
- If the statement is true, kind and necessary, you should make it. In fact, you should go out of your way to make it.
- If true and kind but unnecessary, or true and necessary but unkind, you may make the statement unsolicited, and should make the statement in response to a direct question if you do not have an answer that satisfies all three.
- If true but neither kind nor necessary, you should not make the statement unsolicited, but may make the statement in answer to a direct question. However, there are other options that may be better, including demurring, responding without answering the question, or simply remaining silent.
- If none, the statement should never be made.
If a statement satisfies at least two out of three of true, kind and necessary, then it may be made.As I mentioned in a previous post, I am a bit of a stickler for truth, so I'm not keen on the idea of making a statement that is kind, necessary and not true. But there are people who do not share my view, and for those people there is some logic in this position. Using that same logic, it would be acceptable to give an answer that satisfies any one of the three in response to a direct question. Perhaps the canonical example would be answering "no" to the question "Does this make me look fat?" when that's not your actual opinion. If you believe that "little white lies" are acceptable, this might be the guideline that helps distinguish between those "white lies" and lies of other colors.
Or perhaps you should say nothing, if your words would not improve the silence.