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The Art of Giving Bad News

No one likes to receive bad news. But being the bearer of bad news is not much fun either. Seems like the past few weeks I have found myself delivering the kind of messages I wish someone else would do. I want to deliver happiness, fat checks, and great looking food. But there are times we all need to “suck it up,” and give people news that will disappoint, hurt, and even devastate. So how do you do that well? I’m not sure I’m doing it well, but as I thought about the circumstances I’ve been in lately, I tried to put myself in the other person’s shoes. If someone is going to give me bad news, how would I like for it be done? Here are some thoughts:

Be kind. Difficult conversations are painful by nature. So there’s no need to make them any more hurtful. Tell me the bad news but don’t make me feel any worse than I already feel. I’ll always remember this conversation and how you approached it.

Be honest. Speaking the truth in love is a biblical mandate. Don’t skirt the issue and don’t sugar coat it. Please tell me what the real problem is. In order to avoid the same fall out down the road, I need to be aware of the real reason for the conflict or outcome, not just a more palatable version.

Be silent. Once you say your peace, let me process, respond, or just cry. Some people feel the need to fill every second with words. People in shock need time to regain their bearings. Being silent creates a healthy tension and gives me time to respond.

Be available. Some news you never see coming. They blindside you like a Mac truck blowing through a stop sign. A gracious person will always leave the door open for a follow up conversation or clarification if necessary. 

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Maurillo Amorim is the CEO of The A Group, a media, technology and branding firm in Brentwood, TN established in 2001.