Delivering bad news can be quite challenging because we don’t want to hurt people, and we can be fearful of an explosive reaction. That fear tends to build up until the whole concept of delivering awful news becomes petrifying. We avoid it at all costs.
It starts with a friend asking you to their party that you don’t feel like going to. How do you say no? Now you have to fire an employee, ugh! Or you have to tell everyone they have to have their project done by Monday, and it’s Friday.
Maybe you have to tell a friend that she bought the wrong dress. It’s not doing her any justice. Gasp!
So yeah, delivering bad news is challenging if you’re a kind person concerned for other peoples’ feelings.
Avoiding it can have disastrous results. It can cause you significant stress, which we know to be bad for your health. But avoiding it also makes it worse for the person you’re delivering the news to.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. From canceling on a friend to terminating an employee, there are ways to deliver bad news that can be as painless as possible. You can convey your negative message so well that you become the hero.
- Make sure you have complete privacy. Depending on the severity of the news, make sure there are no interruptions.
- Schedule enough time to deliver the message, allow for processing time, and to answer questions. This will reduce the opportunity for explosive reactions.
- Be prepared with your message. Practice by saying it aloud. The process for delivering concepts aloud and thinking those thoughts in your head is different. How you convey this message plays a role in how your listener perceives it.
- Deliver terrible news with love. Feel genuine compassion for the person with whom you’re speaking. The concern will show in your voice.
- Deliver the message clearly and concisely. Then stop talking. No jokes.
- If there are multiple parts of bad news, wait for the person to process each piece before moving on to the next. Don’t be afraid of silence.
- Be available & able to answer questions afterward.
- Show empathy and remove blame. If you’re reducing an employee’s hours, make sure she knows what a great asset she is.
- Don’t procrastinate. This will only make it harder on you and possibly worse for your employee (or friend.) The longer it takes you to deliver the message, the more your mind will show you visions of worst-case scenarios. That’ll result in a decrease in your performance. If the bad news is telling a friend you can’t make her event, the sooner, the better so she can make other arrangements.
- Sit next to the person if possible. If delivering the message remotely, make sure you use video, you’re well lit, and you’re looking at your employee.
Bad news is a part of life, and if you’re avoiding it and allowing it to cause you to stress, something needs to be done. Just as with fear, the results are usually not as bad as you anticipate.
With a little practice, you can become a hero when delivering bad news.
What are your experiences with bad news? Has anyone ever given you news in a less-than sympathetic way? Do you have any other tricks for the readers to enjoy? Please share in the comments below.