Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 5, Issue 39;   September 28, 2005: Give Me the Bad News First

Give Me the Bad News First

by

I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that if you wait long enough, there will be some bad news. The good news is that the good news helps us deal with the bad news. And it helps a lot more if we get the bad news first.
Apple Pie

Some of us have trouble with bad news. We reject it even before we hear it, or if we do let it in, we don't let ourselves feel it fully. In part, we do this because we constantly barrage each other with negative messages and unreasonable expectations about dealing with bad news:

  • You shouldn't feel so bad
  • Don't be such a downer
  • You're so negative

We're just as hard on ourselves about setting unreasonable standards of cheerfulness:

  • He's always cheerful
  • No matter how bad the situation, she's always levelheaded and positive
  • Never seen him without a smile on his face or a joke at the ready

And then there's the term "feeling bad," which we often use instead of "feeling hurt." The "bad" in "feeling bad" can make us feel that the feeling itself is bad. Of course, feelings aren't good or bad, they just are, but keeping that in mind can be difficult when you've just been hammered with some bad news.

Sometimes, things get so complicated that we feel hurt or guilty about feeling bad. That can set up a trap, unless you can somehow remember that it's perfectly human to feel hurt once in a while. Feeling hurt when something bad has happened is actually good. It's positive proof that there's life on Planet You.

When we deny our pain, trouble is on the way. That's why, to be safe, I usually want to hear the bad news first. Hearing the bad news first has lots of advantages.

Extra time to let it sink in
Because we don't like bad news, we tend to deny it. We need extra time to deal with bad news, because we get in our own way when receiving it.
A strong foundation for the good news
Really working through the When we deny our pain,
trouble is on the way.
bad news and the feelings that come with it is essential if you want a clear fix on reality. And you're sure to need that as you try to incorporate the good news.
Sharper focus
Hearing the good news first can be a tempting distraction that can get in the way of really grasping the bad news.
Better understanding of the good news
Knowing the bad news at the time we receive the good news can help us find inconsistencies in the good news, which can save trouble later.

When I hear the bad news first, I've saved the best for last. That way, when I move on to the next crisis or the next preoccupation, I'm charged up from the good news I've just heard. Maybe that's why we eat dessert at the end of the meal. Now please pass me another piece of apple pie. Go to top Top  Next issue: Recalcitrant Collaborators  Next Issue

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Controlling meeting blowhards is difficult enough in face-to-face meetings, but virtual meetings present next-level problems, because techniques that work face-to-face are unavailable. Here are eight tactics for controlling virtual blowhards. Available here and by RSS on March 29.
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