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How To Deliver Bad News To Anyone

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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.

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Featured photo credit: Daniel Foster via flickr.com

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Maggie Heath

Maggie is a passionate writer who blogs about communication and lifestyle on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on November 18, 2021

10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

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10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

We all fall into the trap of judging a person’s character by their appearance. How wrong we are! All too often, the real character of the person only appears when some negative event hits them or you. Then you may see a toxic person emerging from the ruins and it is often a shock.

A truly frightening example is revealed in the book by O’Toole in Bowman called Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Instincts Betray Us. A perfectly respectable, charming, well dressed neighbor was found to have installed a torture chamber in his garage where he was systematically abusing kidnapped women. This is an extreme example, but it does show how we can be totally deceived by a person’s physical appearance, manners and behavior.

So, what can you do? You want to be able to assess personal qualities when you come into contact with colleagues, fresh acquaintances and new friends who might even become lifelong partners. You want to know if they are:

  • honest
  • reliable
  • competent
  • kind and compassionate
  • capable of taking the blame
  • able to persevere
  • modest and humble
  • pacific and can control anger.

The secret is to reserve judgment and take your time. Observe them in certain situations; look at how they react. Listen to them talking, joking, laughing, explaining, complaining, blaming, praising, ranting, and preaching. Only then will you be able to judge their character. This is not foolproof, but if you follow the 10 ways below, you have a pretty good chance of not ending up in an abusive relationship.

1. Is anger a frequent occurrence?

All too often, angry reactions which may seem to be excessive are a sign that there are underlying issues. Do not think that every person who just snaps and throws his/her weight around mentally and physically is just reacting normally. Everyone has an occasional angry outburst when driving or when things go pear-shaped.

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But if this is almost a daily occurrence, then you need to discover why and maybe avoid that person. Too often, anger will escalate to violent and aggressive behavior. You do not want to be near someone who thinks violence can solve personal or global problems.

2. Can you witness acts of kindness?

How often do you see this person being kind and considerate? Do they give money to beggars, donate to charity, do voluntary work or in some simple way show that they are willing to share the planet with about 7 billion other people?

I was shocked when a guest of mine never showed any kindness to the weak and disadvantaged people in our town. She was ostensibly a religious person, but I began to doubt the sincerity of her beliefs.

“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

Abigail Van Buren

3. How does this person take the blame?

Maybe you know that s/he is responsible for a screw-up in the office or even in not turning up on time for a date. Look at their reaction. If they start blaming other colleagues or the traffic, well, this is an indication that they are not willing to take responsibility for their mistakes.

4. Don’t use Facebook as an indicator.

You will be relieved to know that graphology (the study of that forgotten skill of handwriting) is no longer considered a reliable test of a person’s character. Neither is Facebook stalking, fortunately. A study showed that Facebook use of foul language, sexual innuendo and gossip were not reliable indicators of a candidate’s character or future performance in the workplace.

5. Read their emails.

Now a much better idea is to read the person’s emails. Studies show that the use of the following can indicate certain personality traits:

  • Too many exclamation points may reveal a sunny disposition
  • Frequent errors may indicate apathy
  • Use of smileys is the only way a person can smile at you
  • Use of the third person may reveal a certain formality
  • Too many question marks can show anger
  • Overuse of capital letters is regarded as shouting. They are a definite no-no in netiquette, yet a surprising number of  people still use them.

6. Watch out for the show offs.

Listen to people as they talk. How often do they mention their achievements, promotions, awards and successes? If this happens a lot, it is a sure indication that this person has an over-inflated view of his/her achievements. They are unlikely to be modest or show humility. What a pity!  Another person to avoid.

7. Look for evidence of perseverance.

A powerful indicator of grit and tenacity is when a person persists and never gives up when they really want to achieve a life goal. Look for evidence of them keeping going in spite of enormous difficulties.

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Great achievements by scientists and inventors all bear the hallmark of perseverance. We only have to think of Einstein, Edison (who failed thousands of times) and Nelson Mandela to get inspiration. The US Department of Education is in no doubt about how grit, tenacity and perseverance will be key success factors for youth in the 21st century.

8. Their empathy score is high.

Listen to how they talk about the less fortunate members of our society such as the poor, immigrants and the disabled. Do you notice that they talk in a compassionate way about these people? The fact that they even mention them is a strong indicator of empathy.

People with zero empathy will never talk about the disadvantaged. They will rarely ask you a question about a difficult time or relationship. They will usually steer the conversation back to themselves. These people have zero empathy and in extreme cases, they are psychopaths who never show any feelings towards their victims.

9. Learn how to be socially interactive.

We are social animals and this is what makes us so uniquely human. If a person is isolated or a loner, this may be a negative indicator of their character. You want to meet a person who knows about trust, honesty and loyalty. The only way to practice these great qualities is to actually interact socially. The great advantage is that you can share problems and celebrate success and joy together.

“One can acquire everything in solitude, except character.”

Stendhal

 10. Avoid toxic people.

These people are trying to control others and often are failing to come to terms with their own failures. Typical behavior and conversations may concern:

  • Envy or jealousy
  • Criticism of partners, colleagues and friends
  • Complaining about their own lack of success
  • Blaming others for their own bad luck or failure
  • Obsession with themselves and their problems

Listen to these people talk and you will quickly discover that you need to avoid them at all costs because their negativity will drag you down. In addition, as much as you would like to help them, you are not qualified to do so.

Now, having looked at some of the best ways to judge a person, what about yourself? How do others see you? Why not take Dr. Phil’s quiz and find out. Can you bear it?

Featured photo credit: Jacek Dylag via unsplash.com

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