How to Break Bad News to People?

2,014 Views Updated: 19 Sep 2018
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How to Break Bad News to People?

Breaking bad news to someone is as difficult a task as receiving it, the situation becomes more critical when the person at the receiving end is very close to your heart. You need a lot of courage to gather that energy to utter those words from your mouth. On breaking a bad news to someone, it is very important to keep in mind that the news should be given at an appropriate time as a wrong timing may lead to devastating conclusions. Moreover, you can never predict the reaction of the person receiving the news completely. It may vary from person to person depending upon their temperament and nature. If a person is very sensitive, then they may find it very difficult to accept a bad news and may take a lot of time to internalize the fact. The other person with a strong temperament may be able to accept a bad news more naturally. In such situations, the problem arises for the one who is required to deliver the bad news. They may have to adopt different strategies depending upon the temperament of the person they have to deal with.

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As human beings, we are emphatic creatures. One always has that sympathy and guilt of breaking the bad news to someone no matter how distant one is from that person. Unfortunately, there is no ideal way in which one can pass that news to someone as it is very difficult to deliver bad news positively. But sadly, one cannot avoid these situations and have to confront the reality as soon as possible. This is an integral part of life as one confronts such situations quite frequently. 

It is a very bad feeling to realize that you have got some news which is destined to hurt the other person and may even sometime cause mental stress. It is even more difficult to actually carry it in action, to tell them the news which is going to disappoint, hurt the person at the receiving end. However, there are always ways of passing that bad information in a manner that can mitigate the impact it can have on the person receiving it. One needs to be very careful while delivering that piece of bad information. One needs to pay attention to the kind of words that should be used, the tone of the voice, reception of the reaction in a proper manner among other factors that may trigger a response from the receiving end. These factors are critical and play a decisive role in determining the impact of the news on the other person. All you have to do is follow some simple steps and remember some important points to break that bad news in the best possible way. 

How To Deliver Bad News To People?

#1. Pick Your Words Wisely 

Before breaking a bad news to someone, it is always better to use your empathic powers and try to place yourself in the situation of the person who would be receiving the news. This will help you to analyze the impact of the bad news on the person in a better way. In some cases, the news may also have an impact on you, and in such situations, it would always be better to sit in a quiet, dark place, talk to oneself and then try to come out of the shock. This will help you to break the bad news to the other person more objectively. Otherwise, the situation can get worse. Post this, one can create a strategy to pick up the right words to pass on the news.

 It is essential to consider this as your words can have a deep impact on the other person. The words picked while passing the news also depend on your relationship with the other person. If you both share a very close relationship, then you can choose to tell this news in a straightforward language without mincing the words. If the other person is not a very close one, then you need to pick words which should reflect honesty, concern, generosity, and empathy.  

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#2. Prepare The Narrative In Advance

In order to be completely sure about how to break the bad news to someone, it is always advisable to practice the narrative in advance so that you have an idea of the kind of words that should be used while breaking the bad news. If passing on the news is really difficult for you and you have to break it to someone really close then you can write the words on a sheet and then practice them in front of a mirror. This will help you to scrutinize your facial expression which should be in sync with your words while delivering the news. 

Practice will also build up courage in you to break the news which otherwise is quite difficult to pass. Moreover, it will give you an idea of the kind of tone you should adopt while passing the news. For example, if someone has lost his wife in an accident, and you are required to deliver this news to the person then you may start like, "I'm extremely sorry to tell you this." The proper practice of the words used will help you a lot to figure out the best way to break bad news. 

#3. Offer Comfort To The Person 

As you start to narrate the incident, it is always important to acknowledge the other person's reaction and emotional state and then take further course of action accordingly. This is the most important part of breaking the news, where you are required to respond to the other person's reaction as well as you can. One can start with establishing a proper connection between the emotional state of the recipient and the cause. It should always be clear to the recipient that you are concerned about their well-being and have sympathy towards them. This will also comfort the recipient to a great extent as he/she will understand that you understand their situation and want to alleviate their pain instead of passing judgments and making assumptions.  

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#4. Comfortable Surroundings

While breaking bad news, it is always important to ensure that the surroundings are comfortable. One should never tell a bad news to the other person in very crowded places. The best surroundings to deliver a bad news are places where one enjoys a high degree of privacy. It is your responsibility to make sure that after listening to the news they may not feeling the awkwardness of having being conveyed the information in a wrong set up. Generally, the person getting the bad news show some strong emotional response, ensuring the right surroundings to deliver the bad news may also help you to cope up with intense reactions, and you will be able to handle the situation in a more efficient manner. 

#5. Suitable Timing

At times, one is required to deliver the bad news as early as possible considering the urgency of the matter. In such cases, one needs to be very careful in finding a suitable time to deliver the news and check when the other person is available and receptive. One should avoid telling a bad news if the other person is preoccupied with something really important. One can never be sure of the kind of response on can receive from the other person, hence it is extremely important to make sure that the other person gets the news in the most suitable time. Usually, it is always a good idea to deliver a bad news when the other person is alone and is available for something serious. Breaking a bad news over the phone is not a very good idea as one might not be able to see where the other person is. Moreover, it is not possible to console the other person over the phone as better as it can be done in a face-to-face interaction.  

#6. Follow Up

It is always important to follow up with a person after breaking the bad news to him/her. As you delivered the bad news to the person, you hold some kind of responsibility towards their response and their immediate requirements. If you feel that after hearing the news, the person is in a desolate state and is undergoing mental stress, then you should make sure that appropriate steps are taken to ensure that he comes out of the state and feel better again. A warm hug and a hand always prove fruitful in such situations and can cure the mental damage that has been done to the person. Bad news can have great consequences on a person if he doesn't get sufficient support at the time of the misfortune. The person may feel isolated. In such a situation, it is always the responsibility of the person who is conveying the news to ensure the well being of the other person and make him/her feel at ease.  

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Posted by: Priya Posts: (2) Opinions: (11) Points: 305 Rank: 562

Breaking bad news to someone is actually a very difficult task. I understand this from my own personal experience. Once I got a call from my best friend’s mother who was also in the same class when I was doing my graduation. We were attending the lectures at that time and my best friend’s phone was on silent. Her mother was continuously calling her but she could not pick up the call as her phone was on silent. However, I picked up aunty’s call because my phone was on vibration mode. Aunty told me that her husband had met with a very severe accident and is admitted in a hospital in a critical condition. I was completely shattered on hearing the news. She wanted me to convey this message to my best friend which was quite a task for me. I could not gain courage to utter the exact words from my mouth. For a few moments, I got standstill and could not really figure out what world be the best way to handle such a situation. I had never faced such a situation earlier in my life. However, there was no way I could have done away with that situation and the only option I was left with was to tell my best friend about that. I took a deep breath and asked her to meet me in the parking lot after the lecture. Trust me, it is very important to maintain your cool if you are supposed to break a bad news to someone. If you will get nervous then it will be nearly impossible to convey the message to the other person and handle his/ her reaction. I told her about the accident. She started crying but I was there to offer a hug to him. Breaking the news to her in the parking area turned out to be a good idea as there was nobody there. It is always important to remember that one should always give a bad news in a relatively less crowded place. It helps the other person to gather momentum after the news and take action accordingly. I told her the news in clear yet concerned manner. I did not exaggerate things and told her the specific words which aunty told me. Later on, I offered her to accompany her to the hospital. Throughout the way I kept on giving her assurance that everything will be good. A few kind words can actually bring a soothing effect and lower down the other person’s stress. Thankfully, nothing happened to uncle and he recovered after 10 days of treatment but throughout this episode I realized how important it is to break a bad news to someone in a good manner. You should always try to understand the other person’s situation and be ready to tackle the kind of reaction that can come from the other person. A bad news can actually have a deep impact on someone and a smart person should learn the ways to deal with such situations as effectively as possible.

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