How to Deliver Bad News in Five Steps

You have been chosen to deliver the bad news to an unsuspecting person. You really don’t want to do it, but you know that if you don’t this person will most likely hear it in a way that might be insensitive, bitter or blatantly rude. Here’s what you need to do if put in that situation:

One. Pay close attention to your facial expression.
Look at your self in the mirror if one is available. Notice how you look as you think about the news you will be sharing with this person. Keep in mind how you would want someone to approach you with bad news.

Two. Think about your tone of voice.

You don’t want to ever sound angry, because this only makes the person anxious and irritated. You also don’t want to rush through the news either, because this will only put you in the position to have to repeat the news all over again.

Three. You will want to ponder on what you are going to say before you say it.

So the old adage goes, “It isn’t what you say it’s how you say it.” If you have to tell this person that someone is ill, dying, losing their job, they are a victim of theft, or their mate was seen cheating, then you will want to save the long speech and get to the point.
Four. When you begin to share the news in your calm, controlled voice, start with something they already know before you tell them something they don’t know, because it prepares their ears to hear what you have to say.

For instance, let’s say this person is going to lose his or her job you may say something like, “You know our boss has been talking about letting some people go…” Then you will provide details, “Well I was informed that on January 1 the company will be letting several employees go.” By this point he or she may interrupt with, “Does this mean I will be leaving the company too?” then you can confirm the details. If they don’t catch on to what you are saying, then state what the company will be doing by making your point clear, “So I have been told you are one of the employees. However, I found out that XYZ is hiring.” You will do the same if you should deliver other bad news. State what you know, provide details, and if you are able to assist them in any way with their problem offer to do so.

Five. Give them some space, if need be excuse yourself.

Most people who receive bad news need time to think. They may have many questions or none at all. Some may be in shock and may not be thinking clearly. Give the person a chance to collect his or her thoughts before you give them anymore information. Whatever you do, never give them false hope by telling them something you are not certain. You may not know the answers to all their questions and if so, direct them to someone who could help them.

Giving someone bad news is never easy to do, but if you take your time, stick to the facts, and keep your composure at least you know you have done your part to the best of your ability.

By Nicholl McGuire

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