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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It's of questionable value unless you first agree on what you mean by "better" or "best."
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would still agree that we get too much email. What's happening? And what can we do about it?
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managers and project managers to answer them in the project context. What's the problem? Why should
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- Down in the Weeds: II
- To be "down in the weeds," in one of its senses, is to be lost in discussion at a level of
detail inappropriate to the current situation. Here's Part II of our exploration of methods for dealing
with this frustrating pattern so common in group discussions.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming August 22: Dealing with Credit Appropriation
- Very little is more frustrating than having someone else claim credit for the work you do. Worse, sometimes they blame you if they get into trouble after misusing your results. Here are three tips for dealing with credit appropriation. Available here and by RSS on August 22.
- And on August 29: Please Reassure Them
- When things go wildly wrong, someone is usually designated to investigate and assess the probability of further trouble. That role can be risky. Here are three guidelines for protecting yourself if that role falls to you. Available here and by RSS on August 29.
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- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.