Deliver bad news effectively

Sharing bad news and difficult information is part of it

everyday life. The key is to proactively share such information before the other party discovers it. In the end, people usually find out the truth. Therefore, honest communication is critical to building credibility and trust, which in turn impacts teamwork, productivity, profitability and long-term success. Honest communication is how we gain and maintain the trust of our customers, prospects, colleagues and staff, as well as our family and friends. You can tell how open and trustworthy a relationship is by how willing a person is to share things that are difficult but important to hear.

When it’s time to share bad news and difficult information, remember three excuses to avoid and four techniques to get the message across effectively.

Three excuses to avoid

1. “It wasn’t my job.”

That reasoning may seem good, but it usually upsets the other person and makes you look like you’re not a team player. After all, even if it wasn’t your job, couldn’t you have taken action and done something to help? History is filled with successful people who seized the moment and took the lead.

2. “Nobody told me.”

If this is the case, the question to ask is, “Why?” Have you created an environment where people are afraid to tell you difficult information?

3. “Everyone agreed with me.”

Just because everyone agreed with you, don’t let go of the outcome. After all, we tend to surround ourselves with people who think like us. Also, psychologists who study group dynamics report that people who don’t think like the group tend to become alienated, excluded, or even fired. Just because everyone agrees with you doesn’t mean you were right. In the 1400s, people thought the world was flat, but their collective thoughts made it not.

Four techniques to get the message across effectively

1.Deliver it immediately.

Bad news about us comes better from our own mouth than from someone else’s. If someone else discovers our bad news before we announce it, it undermines their trust in us and can make them wonder what else we’re hiding.

2. Take 100 percent responsibility for your actions.

Remember, nobody makes [] we do everything. We choose our actions for several reasons. Great leaders and great coaches take

responsibility for both their team’s actions and their own. When they take such responsibility, their fans usually receive positive news. Despite Ronald Reagan’s popularity as president, he began to slip in the polls during the Iran-Contra affair until he took full responsibility for what happened. When he took on the responsibility, his popularity soared again.

3. Lead the way with bad information.

If the future looks bleak or if there is more bad information out there, find out as much as you can and share it ASAP before someone else finds out. Years ago, Tylenol infected people, but the company survived the crisis in part because company officials quickly and openly shared their knowledge with the public.

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4. Take immediate and widespread action to correct the situation.

This helps to avoid the erosion of trust, as people feel safer when they hear and see that someone is doing something about the situation. Unfortunately, organizations often adopt a reactive, wait-and-see attitude, only to make the situation worse. An organization I worked with waited to solve their financial problems until they were forced to continue with massive layoffs. The employees left behind became skeptical and lost confidence that the situation would be reversed, so they started looking elsewhere. How we respond to mistakes defines us. Consider the Tylenol example again. The company immediately removed all potentially deadly products from store shelves. They did not wait to be forced into action; they actively told the public what their company was doing to correct the situation and prevent further accidents.

Nobody likes [] to share bad information, but doing so honestly is absolutely necessary to maintain the bond of trust. Trust is the foundation of all relationships, and honest communication is key to developing and building the relationships we desire.