There will always be those things in life that are difficult to say.
To tell a boy you don't like him anymore.
To cancel plans.
Or even just to point out that a dear friend 'should not wear that again.'
Some are more difficult than others.
Like telling a person you care about that you have to let them down, despite all efforts to avoid it.
After years of practice, I'm capable of delivering the difficult news. I just don't like doing it.
I don't want to be the one singled out to say, 'We all think you're great, but...'
When I worked my first mall job, my boss had [what I can only call a] game, where he would make me interview people. I would have to start by shaking their hand, introducing myself and then saying, "By the end of this interview I will know whether or not I will offer you a job." Of course, I already knew that I wasn't going to. And after five minutes of talking, I would have to say, "Thank you. I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me. I do not have a position available for you." These interviews would take place on the sales floor with my boss standing within earshot. I had a tendency to end with, "Right now." As in, "I don't have a position for you right now." My boss called those 'weasel words' and there were to be none of those. He said that it left the possibility that we would have a job for them in the future. And that was just not true, he would say. It's not that we don't have positions, we don't have a position for that person. Period. And he wanted me to make that clear to them.
And sometimes, just to make it interesting, he would make me interview really. odd. people.
Once he pulled me away from my customer and asked me to go interview this guy, and that he was a TBNT (thanks but no thanks). I look across the store to see a young African American guy nicely dressed. I scan his application and walk over to him. I asked him a vague opening question about his personal style. He threw his hands up and opened wide before launching into a discussion about denim.
But I was not listening.
I was staring at his teeth.
Or should I say, his grill. (Mind you, this was in 2000, where I was barely 20 years old and grills were quite new still-at least here in Arkansas.) I was distracted, to say the least. His eyeteeth were wrapped in gold and studded with diamonds. They stared me down.
I was scared.
I shot a glance over at my boss. I could tell from the look on his face that he was amused. He nodded slightly-letting me know that he'd done this on purpose. That the man standing in front of me was a challenge.
I stood there in my low-slung jeans and layered tank tops, nodding as this guy waxed poetically about his desires for the future, which included being some kind of rap mogul. I waited patiently, knowing what I was going to have to say.
After the five minutes, I looked the guy straight in the eye and told him, point blank, "Thank you for your time, unfortunately you're not a match for us and we do not have a position for you."
I turned and walked away, having defeated my challenge. I said what I had to say, no more, no less. I walked back to my boss. "There. I did it," I said as I thrust the application back into his hands. It was something else that I needed to say.
He never forced me to do that again. I'm guessing he thought I had learned my lesson. And, I had. But what he taught me went beyond telling a guy I couldn't give him a job. He taught me about what I should and shouldn't take from a boss. He taught me about the difficulties that arise from being between a rock and a hard place. He taught me that if it needs to be said, I can say it.
Even if I don't want to.