How to Be Good at Breaking Bad News

If you run a business, you’re eventually going to find yourself in a situation where you have to deliver bad news. Maybe you have to lay off some employees, or perhaps your company has made a huge mistake that has put you smack dab in the middle of a PR crisis. Whatever the situation, you have to realize that there are right ways and wrong ways to deliver bad news. Take the right approach, and you can at least soften the blow of the upsetting news. But deliver the bad news with reckless abandon, and you’ll make things even worse.

So, how can you be good at delivering bad news? Here are some points to keep in mind.

  • Put yourself in their shoes — Before you deliver the bad news, think about how the audience that’s receiving the bad news is going to feel. Put yourself in their shoes if you can. How will they react? It’s important that you’re able to understand what the recipients of the bad news will be feeling so you can tailor your words and approach to make the delivery as soft as possible for them.
  • Don’t delay — The longer you sit on bad news, the worse it will be in the end. Things will not miraculously improve if you sit on the bad news. More likely, things will worsen and the bad news could leak before you have a chance to break it yourself and control the message. Don’t delay. Bite the bullet and break the bad news once you’ve had a chance to prepare what you’re going to say.
  • Be honest and forthcoming — Never hide the facts. As I said a few weeks ago, the cover-up is always worse than the crime. If you try to be misleading when breaking your bad news, you’re setting yourself up for disaster. The truth always comes out, and if it’s discovered that you didn’t tell the truth, the bad news will be compounded and your credibility will be shot to pieces.
  • Practice before delivering the bad news — You have one chance to break your bad news in the best possible way. You can’t afford to screw it up. You must practice what you’re going to say. Know your message and be prepared to adapt according to how the audience is reacting to the bad news.

Have you ever had to break bad news? How did you go about it? Share your experience by leaving a comment in the replies below.

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download a free copy of the PR Checklist – a 24 point list of Press Release Dos and Don’ts here:

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