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Tips on delivering bad news

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Good news is easy to deliver, bad news – not so much. Once you’re in a position of influence, you are going to have to communicate difficult news that is uncomfortable to hear. In “The Pin Drop Principle”, David Lewis and G Riley Mills, communication experts, share guidelines on delivering difficult news effectively. Here’s how they suggest you should do it:

Be direct. Limit small talk and get to the point early. Use the feedback sandwich method – start with the positive, express the negative and end with the positive.

Provide context. Employees will have questions. Provide the information to avoid confusion.

Time it right. Don’t wait too long to do it. Be honest and forthcoming. People will more readily accept bad news if the messenger is upfront and candid.

Don’t make assumptions. Consider the personalities involved and the various reactions they could have. Stay open during the conversation, and listen actively.

Be prepared for questions. Think ahead of time about all the possible questions that might be asked and how you will handle them before you deliver the difficult news.

Look the person in the eye. Maintaining eye contact with a person while giving them bad news shows confidence and sincerity on your part.

Watch your body language. Match your body language with your intention to project an assertive and confident presence.

Don’t minimize the event. Don’t be dismissive. While you are giving someone bad news, that person is looking at your body language. Be considerate of their feelings.

Do it in person. Avoid delivering bad news electronically. Sit down with the person face to face, deliver the news and discuss the situation.

Apologize. If you are at fault, saying “I’m sorry”, isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. Own it. Take responsibility. Offer a sincere apology.

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