How To Break Bad News To Someone: Ultimate 11-Step Guide

how to treat people with respect

Today you’ll find out how to break bad news to someone.

It’s never easy to deliver a horrible message to someone. On the other hand, conveying it at the wrong time or in the wrong way can be fatal. Understanding the best way to deliver bad news is extremely important.

The main challenge (besides the terrible message itself) is that the person delivering the bad news is just as difficult as the person receiving it. Learn some bad news techniques that can make the situation easier for both parties.

How To Break Bad News To Someone:

1. Think about your own reaction.

Take care of yourself before you prepare to tell others. You too may be affected by the news. Or, even if it does not affect you directly, it can cause you great stress. Before you try to explain something to someone else, you need to give yourself time to recover from your emotions.

Take a shower, drink a cup of coffee, meditate, or simply take a couple of minutes of deep breathing, or simply sit in a quiet, dark place for a few seconds to give yourself some time to collect your thoughts. Once you get over the initial shock, telling people will not be as scary, but it is vital to admit that it can still be difficult.

2. Select the story you want to tell.

Before you deliver nasty news, you need to understand how much you’re able and willing to share. Be polite and supply facts about recent events that may help the person gain further clarity.

Don’t be foolish or mince words. This is more stressful for the person receiving the bad news than avoiding the subject. To explain events, tell what happened (narration). Look the person in the eye and gently explain what happened.

3. Make sure you are ready to say what you will say.

This can help you formulate the phrases you want to use and prepare to stay adaptable to other people’s cues. Who you are, your relationship with the person you are texting, and the context of the message all influence the words you use and how you convey them.

If there has been an accident and someone has been injured, try to say it clearly but gently.

Give the person time to emotionally prepare for what you will say to them, and then tell them what happened.

If you lose your job, say something like: “Sorry to have to tell you this, but the company is being taken over by a larger network.” Then add, “Unfortunately, I was laid off.”

4. Determine if you’re the best person to break the news.

If you are a random person who just heard about bad news from the start, you possibly do not want to be the one to break it. However, if you were an eyewitness to the event, you are likely the best person to tell the rest of the family.

For example, it is inappropriate to share personal or sensitive information on social media simply because you know something. Give family and shut friends time to call or visit people before rushing out and getting involved if news comes of a dire situation.

5. Make sure the environment is snug and personal.

The worst thing you can do is eject in a public place where the receiver does not even have a seat to face the implications of what they hear. Choose a place where you can sit or rest. Also, try to move the person to a place where nobody else will disturb them. Other things you can do to help the environment are:

Turn off all electrical equipment such as TVs, radios, music players, etc.

If you want more privacy, close the blinds or curtains, but do not shut out too much light if it is during the day.

To create a private space for the two of you, close the door or move away from screens or other objects.

If you find it useful, ask a family member or friend to join you.

6. If possible, choose an appropriate time.

Waiting is not at all times possible because the message has to be delivered before rumors can spread. If possible, wait until someone else is available and open before you break the news.

In other words, delivering bad news when someone walks in after a long day of work or school, or after a specifically loud argument with a partner, is unlikely to be the most pleasant experience. While there isn’t any “good” time to deliver bad news, there’s logic in waiting until someone is in the dark.

Take a deep breath and stop what’s happening with something like, “I need to talk to you, Jane, and I’m afraid this can’t wait.”

Feelings of urgency can be conveyed over the phone, but it is also a good idea to ask if you can meet soon to deliver the news in person. If this is not possible, or if the person really needs to know right now, you should encourage the recipient to sit down because you have something nasty to tell them. If you are worried about how the recipient will handle it if she or he is alone, ask someone nearby to help them.

7. Determine in advance how the person who will receive the message will feel.

It is also important to know what the person already knows to stop them from repeating mistakes or making an already difficult situation worse. This step is extremely important because it will help you adjust the words and methods you use to deliver the bad news.

Notice if the other person has a tacit suspicion that something nasty is occurring or is feeling the emotion of fear (1), anxiety, or worry.

Look at the terrible news. Is it really that bad? Are you trying to tell someone their pet has died otherwise you have lost your job? Has anyone in your family or close friends died? If the bad news is about you (such as losing your job), the implications will be different than if the problem is about you (such as the death of a pet).

8. Let the person know that you meant to break the bad news.

Such announcements can help one prepare for bad news that will come unexpectedly. Even if you want to move on without wasting time, you should at least prepare the person for the likelihood of bad news.

You can say something like: “I just got a call from the hospital: there was an accident and…”, “I spoke to your doctor and…”, “This can’t be put into words easily, but…”, “You need to hear some good news. very bad…”, etc.

9. If necessary, comfort the person.

Respond to other people’s emotions when they arise by recognizing and referring to them when recounting events. The most important aspect of communicating a message is responding skillfully to the emotions of others (2).

Link the identification of the feeling with the reason and let the recipient know you understand. Pay attention to other people’s reactions by using phrases like “This was a really horrible surprise” or “I can see that you are really unhappy and angry about what happened”, etc.

This shows that you understand their grief or other reaction and have connected to the message you just sent, without judging, making assumptions, or trying to downplay their feelings.

10. Accept the likelihood of silence in response.

After receiving the troubling news, nobody would ask questions or seek explanations. Some people may just sit in a state of shock. It may take some time for the news to stick. Place your hand on the person’s shoulder and sit with them, showing empathetic support.

To avoid making the situation worse, pay attention to social and cultural traditions when comforting the person.

11. Make a decision about what to do next.

It’s sad to give bad news, but there has to be a plan for what happens next. Actions can help the person avoid shock by giving them the impression that they’re involved or doing something to resolve, control, overcome, or deal with the implications of the nasty news.

Help the person decide how to handle the news. How will a friend or relative deal with the death of a loved one? How will a cat owner pay tribute to his cat if he dies? How will someone find a new job if they lose their current job?

Perhaps you could volunteer to drive someone else someplace, such as a hospital, to get things, to an appointment, to the police station, or some other place where it is needed.

Explain what will occur next, particularly in terms of your personal involvement. For example, you might offer driving help so that somebody else can complete a personal task more quickly. Letting the person know you will be there and dropping by to check on them can be beneficial in and of itself.

Whatever promise you make to the person receiving bad news, be sure you keep it.

Spend your time with this person if you can, and acknowledge their need for privacy if necessary.

I want to thank you for taking the time to read my article on how to break bad news to someone. I actually hope that its content has been of good help to you.