Little white lies are part of the lubricant that keeps the cogs of the social machinery running. For instance, if someone tells a bad joke, we usually smile. We don't tell them they're not funny, because that would be rude and might hurt their feelings. The problem (according to Joyce Ehrlinger, a professor of psychology at Florida State University) is that sometimes these little white lies can be dangerous if people take them too seriously and become overconfident in their abilites. In such cases, being less polite would help to deflate the ego of these people and bring them back to reality. Ehrlinger explains:
"There's definitely no harm in some types of overconfidence, and I am not suggesting that we should stop living in a polite society. The worst that might come from someone believing that they are funnier than, in reality, they are is a bit of embarrassment or wasted effort auditioning for 'America's Got Talent.'"
That said, she argues it's important to note when politeness might come at a cost. There are many times when overconfidence carries serious consequences.
"Overconfident doctors and lawyers might offer their patients or clients poor advice," she said. "There are ways in which overconfidence is dangerous, and it might be important to set aside politeness in the service of helping people avoid the perils of overconfidence."
I can see a problem here. If the overconfident person is your boss, or someone with power over you, it wouldn't be a good idea to risk insulting them. In such cases, how do you ever guide the person back to reality?