I just survived one of the most awkward situations known to man, and today I'm going to tell you exactly how I did it.

Here's the scene: it's two weeks ago, and I'm on a tight deadline for a well-known, highly demanding publication. So I'm sitting on my couch watching YouTube videos in my underwear.

And I get an e-mail from someone who I'll describe as an acquaintance, on the chance that he might read this. If I could be certain he wouldn't read this, I would probably describe him as a jackass who hangs out with my friends and frequently takes off his shirt when he gets drunk. But I wouldn't want to embarrass him, so we'll leave it at "acquaintance." Let's call him Chris.

So Chris e-mails me with a question. It starts off with the most formal greeting he is capable of ("Hey man"), before he really gets into it: he's asking me to put in a good word for him at my old company. So I sit there, and I think about it, and I consider it, and I really mull it over for approximately eleven seconds before I reach the following conclusion: there is absolutely no way I would want any human being I've ever come in contact with at any point in my life to deal with this person in a business setting.

So now I'm in a tough spot, because I don't want to put in a good word for Chris at my old company, but also I see this guy at bar trivia, which is something my friends do every week to relax, and unwind, and have a few beers, and – in Chris's case – remove clothing.

Now, as far as I'm concerned, you only have two potential courses of action in this situation. Number one, I could pretend that I didn't get the e-mail. Unfortunately, this has some major drawbacks, namely the fact that a) he can just re-send it, and b) e-mail isn't exactly mis-delivered. This isn't the 1800s, when the mailman rode around on horseback, and sometimes the horse breaks a shoe, and so entire parts of the country don't learn about major events for weeks at a time. ("We really should really take a vacation down in Virginia," one Vermonter might say to his wife, not realizing that the Civil War is going on, and the entire state is covered in small intestines. "It's so lovely down there this time of the year!")

The number two course of action is, obviously, that I could just walk right up to Chris, summon my courage, and use direct, focused wording to tell him that I don't want to recommend him for a position. And that's exactly what happened: the next week at trivia, I employed a combination of strong, carefully-worded language and direct, unwavering eye contact, and I managed to avoid the issue completely. Chris hasn't brought it up in two weeks now, so I suspect I'm in the clear.

But what if this happens to you? What do you do if someone you don't like asks you to put in an endorsement at work, and you can't just ignore the problem until it gets drunk and takes off its shirt?

I was interested to find out, so I consulted a few etiquette handbooks, and they actually recommended that you be honest with the person. Simply tell your friend, one of them said, that you wouldn't feel comfortable making such a recommendation. Unfortunately, that handbook isn't going to be there to help you when you wake up one morning, and you go out to your car, and there's a dead raccoon on the hood with a crumpled up resume in its mouth.

So I've discovered another solution that I think will help out virtually anyone who manages to land in this situation: outright lies, followed by extreme inaction. To demonstrate what I mean, here are a few short examples of my solution in action:

What he says: "Will you recommend me for a job at your company?"
What you say: "OF COURSE I WILL, CHRIS! I would love to put in a good word for you, even though we haven't seen each other since the night you got arrested for throwing bird poop at that cop."
What you do: Absolutely nothing.


What he says: "Hey man, I haven't heard anything back yet. Any idea what's going on?"
What you say: "No, but I am SO SORRY about that, Chris. I will definitely check on it for you."
What you do: Absolutely nothing.


What he says: "Dude, what gives? I STILL haven't heard back about that job."
What you say: "Oh, man! That sucks. They can really be slow sometimes. Let me check again."
What you do: Try to find a garage for your car.

@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.