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Best Ways to Break Bad News

Best Ways to Break Bad News

No one likes to give bad news, but someone has to do it. If you have been asked to deliver that terrible news to someone, read this article to learn the best ways to break bad news.
Zini Mehta
Breaking bad news to someone is a very difficult thing to do, especially when the person involved is a close one. Whether it's telling someone that they have failed an exam or been fired from their job or lost a close one, it requires utmost sensitivity. Even for professionals like doctors, telling the patient that they are suffering from a serious ailment is not a very simple thing to do. However, by breaking the news at the right time and in the right manner, you can help reduce the pain of the person concerned.

Tips to Break Bad News

Prepare Yourself
The news you are about to give, may have had a big impact on you, especially if it involves a friend. It is important that you recover from the impact before you break the news. Take some time alone, have a cup of coffee and pull yourself together. Go ahead with giving the news, only once you feel you are in a position to do so. If it's urgent, take help from a mutual friend.

Decide What You're Going To Say
Normally, spontaneity is considered best, anything rehearsed sounds weird. However, in this situation, it is better to decide what you are going to say in advance, along with some words of condolence. There is no need to learn it verbatim, just have a fair idea of what you will say and remain flexible to adapt according to the person's reaction. You do not want to end up saying anything insensitive, which could aggravate the pain of the person.

Take the Person to a Comfortable Place
There is nothing worse than being approached in a random public place and told something tragic. Think about it, would you like it, if someone met you at the grocery store and told you about the death of a family member? Take the person to a comfortable private place, where there aren't too many people. Give him/her a chair, let him/her sit and switch off all distractions like cell phone and television.

Choose a Convenient Time
There can be no good time to deliver bad news, but it is better to wait until the time is at least a little suitable. If it possible to delay breaking the news, then you might want to wait till a better time. If the person is already undergoing a major crisis in his/her life, then giving another bad news may not be such a good idea. However, if it is not possible to wait, you can simply say something like, "There's something I need to tell you, and I'm afraid it can't wait."

Get to the Point
Do not beat around the bush when you have to break some bad news. If you know the person well, do not start talking on random topics like your brother's promotion or any other irrelevant topic. It may be difficult to suddenly break the news after a pleasant conversation. Give it to them straight and do not lie to calm the person. Begin with phrases like "I'm sorry" or "I'm afraid", as it gives an idea that there is some bad news to come. It also shows the person that the person breaking the news empathizes with them and there is no cold delivery of facts.

Allow them to React
Every person's reaction to bad news will differ, it may be shock, numbness, tears or anger. Comfort the person and try to calm them down. It is better not to cry along with the person, they will pick up on it and it could aggravate their condition. Showing a little emotion will make the person feel you care but refrain from getting too emotional. Calmly listen to what the person has to say and try to console him/her.

Offer to Help
Once you have intimated the person, offer any help that you can. You can offer to make phone calls on their behalf or drop them to the hospital or go to the police. Make sure you fulfill any promises that you make. Depending on the news and the way the person has taken it, decide whether you can leave the person alone or drop them to a friend's place.

Most of the time, when a person gets bad news, a simple hug and some words of kindness work well. So, the next time you've been asked to break bad news to someone, follow these tips. It will still feel unpleasant, but you will at least feel better knowing that you can help reduce the other person's worries. To sum it up, be prepared for anything, reactions could range from silence to extreme aggression and lastly do not hesitate to take help from others when required.