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How do you describe trying to balance two opposite priorities? I was hoping I could say "walk a thin line" or something, but I'm not sure anymore (I haven't found such an idiom). I need a verbal phrase that describes the action, not the state of facing a difficult choice

He felt obliged to tell the truth but was unwilling to upset her. He was between a rock and a hard place trying to walk a thin line

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3 Answers 3

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Actually "walk a fine line" is a common idiom, very close to your "walk a thin line".

"Walk a tightrope" is another applicable idiom.

Or you could be literal. "He was struggling to balance telling the truth with not upsetting her." Or something to that effect.

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You can describe this as a balancing act, i.e. as a person walking a tightrope or a balance beam, as they can't "lean" too far to either side without falling. I think this is what you were trying to get to with "walking a thin line". For somebody who has to manage more than two opposed ideas, or several competing interests, you can refer to that as juggling their priorities, or "trying to keep all the balls in the air" as a more descriptive way to put it.

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  • With respect, I asked for a verbal phrase, not a noun phrase. "Keep all the balls in the air" is too metaphorical. One wouldn't probably guess the implied meaning Jul 1, 2022 at 23:03
  • "Balancing act" and "juggling priorities" are good. But "trying to keep all the balls in the air" is normally used to mean that a person is very busy, not that he has to decide between competing goals. Competing priorities in the sense of "I have so many things to do I don't know which to do first", rather than competing priorities in the sense of "there are good reasons to do X but also good reasons to do not X".
    – Jay
    Aug 3, 2022 at 14:28
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Stuck between a rock and a hard place?

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  • Welcome to English Language Learners! While this may be correct, we like our answers to be backed up by references. You can edit your answer to include one (e.g. an online dictionary). See the Help Center article How to Answer.
    – Glorfindel
    Jul 1, 2022 at 20:33
  • With respect, I explicitly ruled it out in my question Jul 1, 2022 at 23:01

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