Be kind when breaking bad news

Earnsy Liu | August 13, 2019

Most of us aren’t intentionally mean, but sometimes even the best of us can be thoughtless or unkind without realising it. Do you think you’re ever mean? Maybe, occasionally, just a little bit? Or never ever?

I’m sure you don’t like to give bad news — you did say you weren’t mean, didn’t you? — but sometimes that can’t be helped. You may have to let an employee go, an employee who’s the sole breadwinner with three dependents. You may have to give your tenant notice, that young solo mum whose child has just been diagnosed with leukaemia. You may have to tell contractors they didn’t win the tender they laboured over.

Image, two little girls walking down an alleyway with their arms around each other

Be kind when giving bad news: mind your language and tone. Image by Andrea Tummons. Unsplash licence.

What do you do? No, don’t delegate. That would be mean. And perhaps cowardly. You do it kindly.

Breaking bad news is about using the right tone and saying the right words in the right way. Do it well and you’ll make the bad news more bearable. Do it badly and it could be the way you deliver the message, not the bad news itself, that makes someone cry.

It’s not easy, I know. If you want to learn more about breaking bad news kindly, sign up to one of our online courses.

One last tip: whatever you do, for goodness sake don’t end your bad news letter with LOL. Txt speak isn’t appropriate when giving bad news. Besides, it means laughing out loud, not lots of love.

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