How to Deliver Bad News

imagesHow to Deliver Bad News

Sharing bad news is not easy, you need to be straightforward in saying the toughest stuff, then listen and work through people’s response and say what you’re going to do next.

The Steps:

Preparing Mentally

Prepare yourself mentally for sharing bad news, by understanding how you naturally respond to difficult conversations, you will be able to make small adjustments for immediate impact. To do this you need to recognise your emotional triggers, you can achieve this by:

Paying close attention over time to your reactions: journalling is a great tool for keeping track of your triggers, write down how you felt at the time, review and identify the emotions that provoked strong and intense reactions
Familiarise yourself with how your body reacts to your emotions, for example: your heart beating faster, your body tensing, a sick feeling in your stomach, you’ll then be able to manage those emotions before they manage you
Having this awareness of your emotional triggers will allow you to make changes in the moment: taking a deep breath, counting to 10 or calling time out are simple yet effective steps

Speaking Emphatically

Prepare what you are going to say from a place of empathy and humility. Don’t sugar coat the truth, instead say what you have to say and phrase it in a way that others know you respect their humanity and then say what you’re going to do next. To achieve this:

Have clarity on what you want to say, ensure you step into the conversation calmly by rehearsing the conversation ahead of time
Know the key points you want to communicate in case emotions highjack your brain, and remember your ‘time out’ plan
Prepare how you will respond constructively to whatever accusations, grievances, or upsets that may be brought up, you can do this by considering the range of possible responses and highly emotional reactions

Managing Emotions

The conversation you’re about to have will most likely evoke a strong reaction. Emotions are the most present, pressing and sometimes most painful force in our lives. Prepare to manage emotions by:

Setting the emotional tone: The more sensitive the issue, the more rapidly emotions can escalate
Learning how to see things from other’s perspective, not as “you in their shoes” but as them, by really listening to their response and allowing them to tell their story
Countering emotional reactions with humility, when you share something difficult it’s natural for people to have an emotional reaction

Following these 3 steps will help you to develop a straightforward approach in saying the toughest stuff, to be open and honest about bad situations, and to navigate difficult situations with dignity for everyone impacted.

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Published by Carmel O' Reilly

I’m Carmel O’ Reilly, Founder of I’m the author Your WorkLife Your Way, blogger and podcaster on the subject of WorkLife. My work focuses on helping people to live their best WorkLives, by managing their learning, development and growth, through effective self-feedback, insightful self-questions and the ability to shape and tell their unique story. My Mission is: “To spread the power of WorkLives lived with Passion, Purpose and Pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes that are accessible to everyone.”

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