The Bad News Conversation: How Do You Handle It?

22 June 2023
Female counsellor talking to a female patient in an office

When confronted with bad news, it's natural to experience a range of emotions, including shock, sadness, anger or confusion. That is why, as a bringer of bad news, you need to ensure you are taking the appropriate steps to ensure you are delivering bad news in the most effective way possible.  

Before delivering the bad news, take the time to prepare yourself emotionally and mentally. Reflect on the situation, consider the possible reactions and emotions of the recipients and anticipate their needs. This preparation will help you approach the conversation with a calm and empathetic mindset.

Top tips for delivering bad news effectively

1. Choose the right setting 

Select a space where you can have an uninterrupted and private conversation. This ensures that the recipients feel comfortable expressing their emotions without the fear of being overheard or judged. 

2. Be direct and honest 

Being direct ensures the recipients have a clear understanding of the situation. Using straightforward language and avoiding vague or ambiguous statements helps to minimise confusion and misinterpretation. It allows them to grasp the gravity of the situation and comprehend the information being shared. 

3. Show empathy 

Listen attentively to the recipients without interruption or judgment. Give them your full presence, maintaining eye contact and using non-verbal cues to show that you are engaged and genuinely interested in their perspective and feelings.

4. Give emotions space 

Let the recipients know that it is normal and natural to experience a range of emotions in response to bad news. Encourage them to express their feelings openly and assure them that their emotions are valid and will be heard without judgment. 

5. Contextual Assessment  

Evaluate the nature of the bad news and the specific circumstances surrounding it. Determine if there are aspects or factors that could be open to negotiation or compromise. Not all situations may be suitable for negotiation, so it's important to assess the feasibility and relevance of negotiation in each case. 

6. Active Listening 

Begin by actively listening to the recipients' questions or requests for explanation. Pay attention to their concerns and make sure you fully understand what they are seeking clarification on. 

To find out more about how we can help with Verbal Intervention training see our programme page for more information or to fill out the schedule a consultation form.

Schedule a Consultation