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.
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.
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.
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.
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