How to Deliver Bad News

Steven - 2015 profileBad news about us is better coming from our own mouths than from someone else’s.

As National Honesty Day approaches and you consider your own level of honesty, you might find yourself in the “Truth vs. Lies” trap. This trap leads many to believe that if they simply refrain from lying, they are honest. That’s a great start, but as I’ve said before, honesty goes beyond not telling lies. It also requires us to share ALL details (the good and the bad) and to tackle difficult conversations head-on. These aspects of honesty are particularly challenging when it comes to delivering bad news about ourselves.  

Sharing bad news is part of everyday life. The key is to proactively share such information before the other party discovers it. In the end, people usually find out the truth. Therefore, honest communication is critical to establishing credibility and trust with our customers, potential clients, co-workers and staff, as well as our family and friends. You can tell how open and trustworthy a relationship is by how willing someone is to share things that are difficult but important to hear.

When it’s time to share bad news and difficult information, keep in mind these four techniques for effectively delivering the message:

Deliver it immediately.

Bad news about us is better coming from our own mouths than from someone else’s. If someone else discovers our bad news before we divulge it, it undermines their trust in us, and they may begin to wonder what else we are hiding.

Take 100 percent responsibility for your actions.

Remember, no one makes us do anything. We choose our actions for a variety of reasons. Great leaders and coaches take responsibility for their team’s actions as well as their own. Taking responsibility helps others receive any news favorably. Consider Ronald Reagan. He began slipping in the polls during the Iran-Contra affair until he took full responsibility. After taking responsibility, his popularity rose again.

Get ahead of the curve on bad information.

If the future looks bleak or more bad information is possible, find out as much as you can and share it as quickly as possible before someone else discovers it. Years ago, tainted Tylenol killed people, yet the company survived the crisis in part because company officials quickly and openly shared what they knew with the public.

Take immediate and widespread action to correct the situation.

People feel more secure when they hear and witness someone doing something about the situation. Unfortunately, organizations and individuals often take a reactive wait-and-see approach – only to have the situation worsen. How we respond to mistakes defines us. Consider the Tylenol example again. The company immediately pulled all the potentially deadly products off store shelves. They did not wait to be forced to take action; they proactively told the public what their company was doing to correct the situation and prevent further accidents.

No one likes to share bad information, but doing so honestly is imperative to maintaining the bond of trust. Trust is the foundation of all relationships, and honest communication is the key to developing and building the relationships we desire.

Keep an eye out for tomorrow’s honest communication tip in honor of National Honesty Day (April 30)!

Did this tip help you? We welcome your feedback at info@stevengaffney.com or 703-241-7796.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *