Nothing honest to say? Don't say anything at all.
False hope. What's the point? I cannot tell you how many times people have given me this over the years. It's the numerous letdowns I've experienced which have brought me to realize one of my "fatal flaws" - gullibility (though I like to tell myself I'm just a "trusting" person).
It's the reason I stuck with the same ill-paying job for almost five years. Every six months or so, a manager of some sort would tell me "get ready to take on some bigger responsibilities, cause they're coming your way!" Or, "we're gonna make big bucks on this project, which will mean good raises this year!" Never happened.
It's also the reason I was strung along by multiple losers, finding myself waiting by the phone everytime I'd hear, "I'll call you tomorrow." Or, "Let's hang out this weekend." Then, there was the worst of them all, "I'm ready to change for you." Never happened.
I understand the necessity of white lies, so long as they don't create unrealistic expectations ("No, those jeans don't make your ass look too fat!"). To flat-out lie to someone about something you'll do career or relationship-wise though is flat-out unfair.
If you find yourself consistently doing this to people, or even lying to yourself for that matter ("I'm going to start going to the gym five days a week!"), just stop. It won't help the person you're lying to, or your credibility. You should want to be trusted, not second-guessed.
So, if you realize you aren't going to be able to promote that hard-working colleague, let him or her down gently. Or simply, don't lead this person to believe you will be able to promote him or her in the first place. If you realize you aren't into that person you've been taking out from time-to-time who you can sense is gaga over you, let the guy or gal down, gently. Or just stop telling that poor soul you "want to see [him/her]."
This will all save you time, energy, and tears in the long run.
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