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How To Deliver Bad News To Anyone

How To Deliver Bad News To Anyone

As the title suggests, bad news is never good (because then it would be called… good news!). As with anything, the context in which you deliver the news is important, but these tips are good guidelines to giving anyone some less than stellar news.

1. Make eye contact.

As cliche as it sounds, it’s better for the receiving party to be sitting down. Make sure you sit down as well to avoid seeming too intimidating or overpowering. Bad news should always be delivered as gently as possible. Sitting down with the person you’re talking to can make him or her feel more comfortable, as it will give that person the impression that you genuinely care and want to break the news as nicely as possible.

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2. Sort yourself out first.

It’s never good to give someone bad news while you’re upset. Try calming yourself down first. If you start giving people bad news while you’re emotional, you may forget to include all of the details. It can make the news seem worse to him or her, and you might make him or her uncomfortable. Make sure you’re calm and composed beforehand. Take a few deep breaths and emotionally prepare yourself for what you’re about to do.

3. Try to be neutral.

This is especially true if you personally have little or no connection to the news itself. If the person receiving the bad news is the only one affected, try your best to be neutral. Stick to what you know and don’t stray too far to any one side of the news.

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4. Be prepared.

Rehearse what you’re going to say before you start speaking. You’re more likely to remember everything and to say it in a composed and logical way if you’re ready beforehand. It’s important that the receiving party know everything, so make sure you’re prepared to tell that person all that he or she needs to know.

5. Speak at the level you need to.

Don’t treat adults like children, and don’t treat children like adults. Make sure you evaluate the situation and the person before you speak. Talking to someone above or below his or her level of understanding will only make the bad news harder to hear. Or, even worse, it might make it seem like you don’t care enough to take the time to speak to the person properly.

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6. Use facts.

Bad news is emotional and can be confusing for the person receiving it. Provide facts and evidence for why something happened or what went wrong. This way, he or she will be totally informed. If something can be done about the situation, the person will have full knowledge and can proceed from there.

7. Don’t negotiate.

If something bad happened, that’s that. It will only make things worse if you give someone false hope or make something seem better than it actually is. Stand firm in your assessment of the situation and tell the person exactly what you think.

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8. Offer help.

Remember to be sympathetic and understanding of the situation. Offer any help you can or refer him or her to someone who can offer aid. Let the person know that you know this is difficult news to hear, and, if it’s appropriate, tell him or her that you understand what he or she is going through. It can be incredibly helpful to simply have someone offer sympathy in hard times.

9. Suggest solutions.

If something is fixable, let him or her know. It’s always best to remain optimistic, and if there is something to be done about the situation, be sure to keep that option open. If action can be taken, it’s often the case that it should be.

Featured photo credit: Daniel Foster via flickr.com

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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