top of page

How to Share Bad News in a Positive Way

Updated: May 3, 2021

If you've ever had to let an employee go, write a cancellation notice for a client, or simply tell your kids something they won't want to hear, you know how challenging it is to share bad news in a positive way. With the current pandemic rocking our world from its axis, it seems like bad news is everywhere.

As Director of Media Services for more than a decade, I was in the unenviable position of sharing negative news with media outlets, clients and team members on a regular basis. Through that process, I learned that giving bad news in a positive way is truly an artform.

Our tendency is to over-explain, beat around the bush, and essentially hide the core message we ultimately need to communicate. Instead of informing, we leave people confused and with more questions than answers. If we aren't careful, the relationship can go south, fast!

So, how do we share not-so-great news in a way that sets us apart from the crowd and BUILDS relationships, rather than burning them down?

1. Start with gratitude - Say thank you before saying anything else. Have they been a customer for years? Thank them for their loyalty and for allowing you the privilege of serving them. Even if they weren't easy to deal with, THANK THEM for something they did, or allowed you to do, as a result of the engagement.

2. Get to the bad news right away - Don't wax eloquent on the back story of why you made the decision you did. Simply tell them upfront what changes are taking place ie. We are closing our store front on (this date). We are limiting our services to (x, y and z). We will no longer be able to provide (enter service here).

3. Focus on the positive results - Ok, the hardest part is over. You've told them clearly and concisely what change is coming. Now, share why this is a positive move. Even if it's only slightly positive, spin your language in such a way that they can see the benefit, even if it doesn't really help them much. This may sound like bait and switch, but focusing on the positive outcome communicates that while the change isn't ideal, you are confident this course of action is necessary and will result in a more positive future.

4. Acknowledge how this impacts them - Will the recipient be inconvenienced, disappointed, angry, hurt? Does this decision impact their bottom line? Their workflow? Their employees? Show them you truly understand how this decision impacts their world. This is SO IMPORTANT! Show them they are SEEN, HEARD and UNDERSTOOD. This is critical to ending things on a positive note and ensuring you minimize bridge burning and maximize relationship building.

5. Leave the door open for future partnership - A good rule of thumb is to always end things in such a way that you could work together again in the future. You never know what the future holds and what opportunities will arise to interact with them down the road. So far as it is in your power to do so, take the high road, and move forward in such a way that you leave them with a positive impression of you, your services and your business.

It will never be easy being the bearer of bad news. But when you communicate with a thankful heart, use clear and concise language, embrace the positive outcome, acknowledge the impact of the change, and do what you can to keep relationships in tact, more often than not, you'll find the conversation going better than expected.

👉 Need help crafting copy for that letter, email or social media post? Email me at jessicas@jessicasuggsmarketing. I would love to help you out!

👇 Looking for fresh content to share with your community? Feel free to share and post the social media square below.


bottom of page