No sane individual likes being the bearer of ill tidings, but we all get a turn at being the villain occasionally. When giving someone bad news it is best to soften the blow if possible with a little kindness and empathy, at least in this manner you won’t come off as a sadistic tormentor gleefully basking in the pain of another. While your best efforts may not be perceived as well as you hope, you can walk away secure in the knowledge that your intentions were pure and honorable.
When most people receive bad news emotions come to the forefront, and some are quick to lash out at the messenger. In these cases there is not much the individual giving the bad news can do other than just walk away. Regardless of what is said in the form of comfort, it requires a receptive recipient to have any affect. A person with the mindset to employ the use of a whipping boy when getting bad news cannot be rational, and therefore it is best for the person giving the news to do so quickly and leave. In this situation whatever the individual giving the bad news says is wrong, and will be misconstrued to create a scene. Just walk away.
When giving someone bad news it is imperative to choose words wisely, and use a minimum of words to get the point across. Extended dialog, rants, and personal perspectives only cloud the issue and can make the basic information confusing. Speak softly, clearly, make good eye contact and recognize the other person is being hurt, even if they don’t show it outwardly. This is not to suggest that giving bad news be done in a monotone voice or with robotic characteristics. However, if the individual giving bad news is animated, it may promote an animated response, which can turn into quite a public scene. If possible, always give someone bad news in a private one-on-one situation, as this can maintain the dignity of both parties involved.
It is a great help in giving bad news if both individuals know each other well and have a relationship of mutual respect. In this circumstance the recipient of the bad news will know the other persons intentions are honest, with no embellishment of facts and no mean spirited design.
When giving someone bad news, put yourself on the other side of the conversation. Think of how you would like to be told bad news, and change your approach in accordance with the severity of the situation. Telling a work associate they have a flat tire is a little different than telling them a family member passed away – be diverse in your strategy. Good communication is the key and the ability to think quickly on your feet can make bad news much more palatable if sprinkled with kindness.