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. Top Next Issue
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
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this happens, we say we're in "firefighting" mode. But it's more than a metaphor — we
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Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming October 5: Downscoping Under Pressure: I
- When projects overrun their budgets and/or schedules, we sometimes "downscope" to save time and money. The tactic can succeed — and fail. Three common anti-patterns involve politics, the sunk cost effect, and cognitive biases that distort estimates. Available here and by RSS on October 5.
- And on October 12: Downscoping Under Pressure: II
- We sometimes "downscope" projects to bring them back on budget and schedule when they're headed for overruns. Downscoping doesn't always work. Cognitive biases like the sunk cost effect and confirmation bias can distort decisions about how to downscope. Available here and by RSS on October 12.
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