Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Art of Breaking Bad News- Part Two

When to break bad news: when time is not an issue. As I said last time I pontificated on how to break bad news, this is advice for when there is nothing to be done, nothing to be lost in the waiting an hour, a day.

Wait until the person you have to tell the bad news to has a moment.

1. Do not interrupt their doing something that needs doing and will complicate their day/week/month if it isn't done correctly.

2.  DO:  If the bad news is expected, perhaps they will ask.  For instance, if you are coming from the hospital where great-grandma has been barely hanging on to life, you're likely to get the question earlier than later, and the asker won't ask until they are ready to deal with the information

3. DO: Ask for a moment to talk about something serious.  Something as simple as "would you like me to make you some tea, I have something I need to tell you."  This helps them mentally prepare for bad news, and if it's a horrid time for them to get any more bad news, they have the opportunity to say "hey, can it wait?"

4. DO NOT: Though it may be tempting, do not interrupt a relaxed and much anticipated moment, such as a pleasant dinner after a really hard day or that television series' season premier for which they've waited 8 months and specifically structured their schedule to carve out the time for.  No, this is not a TiVo moment.  When there is nothing to be done, at all, except cope with the news, then the recipient of the news has the right to enjoy the things to which they've been looking forward.

5. DO: Convey the news when you're alone with the person or persons to whom you must tell the bad news.  No sense sharing their bad news with unconcerned parties in front of whom they will not feel comfortable responding authentically, but rather feel the need to mask their emotions.

Examples of good opportunities for breaking bad news:
Over coffee
Over ice cream
On a walk
In the car when tensions aren't too high
In a place the recipient of the news feels comfortable - kitchens are great for this, and meal preparation gives the recipient something else to focus on in the name of moving forward, just be sure to be ready to order take-out if it goes poorly
When an associated topic comes up in conversation.

2 reflections:

Amy @ babybabylemon said...

You do run the risk of associating the bad news with the item if you give bad news while eating. A guy dumped me while we were eating pie and cherry pie was ruined for a very long time. BUT, I was still in my melodramatic early 20s.

Slee said...

I suppose that it depends on the level of bad news. I once got a bad phonecall during a movie which I now have trouble watching without getting panicky.