Stefan wrote:Thank you Peter.
But is it possible to avoid the unwholesome completely in these situations?
I would say so, if one is very skillful, and I think that comes with practice.
Just think about the 5 factors, and then carefully weigh your words, as PeterB said. You don't need to rush them.
"It is spoken at the right time. It is spoken in truth. It is spoken affectionately. It is spoken beneficially. It is spoken with a mind of good-will."
Many truths, blurted out without reflection are not beneficial or spoken at the right time.
As Goedert days, you don't have an obligation to reply.
In tips for skillful conversation
the Buddha explains:
"Monks, it's through his way of participating in a discussion that a person can be known as fit to talk with or unfit to talk with. If a person, when asked a question, puts down [the questioner], crushes him, ridicules him, grasps at his little mistakes, then — that being the case — he is a person unfit to talk with. But if a person, when asked a question, doesn't put down [the questioner], doesn't crush him, doesn't ridicule him, doesn't grasp at his little mistakes, then — that being the case — he is a person fit to talk with.
So, if a wife asks, before a party, if her butt isn't a bit too pompous in that white dress, ....telling her: "Yes", will crush her, will be grasping at a 'little mistake'.
If however the wise husband says:
"Hey, I think the black dress is flattering your curves a lot more than this one"
then he has spoken at the right time
(when she asks for reassurance)in truth, beneficially,
(because she will look better + go to the party in good spirits) affectionately
, (knowing his compliment will help her overcome her insecurity) and with good will
(he doesn't want to burden her with her own inadequacies before a party, but also wants to help her find something more flattering)
This is just an example, of course, and others may be more difficult to answer, like trying to avert misfortune from someone.
In the case of a Nazi officer, asking if you are hiding a Jewish person, this could apply:
"Monks, it's through his way of participating in a discussion that a person can be known as fit to talk with or unfit to talk with. If a person, when asked a question, doesn't give a categorical answer to a question deserving a categorical answer, doesn't give an analytical (qualified) answer to a question deserving an analytical answer, doesn't give a counter-question to a question deserving a counter-question, doesn't put aside a question deserving to be put aside, then — that being the case — he is a person unfit to talk with.
Hope my reply was useful....