Ten Tips for Communicating Bad News

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People don’t like nor want to hear bad news, whether they are tenants, employees, suppliers or anyone else involved in social housing. Bad news is something that is perceived.

Some people try to distance themselves from the bad news, to deliver it dispassionately, without emotional involvement. Others empathise and immerse themselves. Being distanced can feel cold and uncaring but can enable you to stay emotionally in control and objective. Being emotionally involved allows you to connect with the other person and for them to feel you care, but cn also mean that you lose perspective and can get “too far in”. Finding the right balance is key.

So, here are some tips…

1.  Check out what you are going to communicate with several colleagues before finalising your communication

2. Imagine what it would be like to be in the shoes of the one or ones receiving the bad news

3. Ensure you explain the context around the bad news fully and clearly – be ready to answer questions honestly and accurately

4. Don’t hide behind emails and texts if a face to face meeting or phone call is needed. Choose the appropriate communication method

5. Acknowledgement is key – anger and resistance is often a result, not of the bad news itself, but people feeling they aren’t being heard or their feelings and opinions acknowledged.Show that you understand the consequences and acknowledge the impact the bad news might have on the other person.

6. Where there are practical positive things people can do to reduce the impact of the bad news or find innovative alternatives, communicate these clearly and sincerely

7. Don’t hide behind acronyms and jargon. Most tenants hate the “business speak” of some housing organisations.

8. Break the news into manageable chunks – give people time and opportunity to digest it and to ask questions

9. Where you can, give early warning of bad news – don’t put it off or leave so late that it feels like a violent explosion

10. Be ready to authentically explain the good that can arise from the initial bad news – identify possible benefits oin the longer run


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About Paul Levy

Paul is a writer, thinker, facilitator, theatre-maker, and conversifier. He is the author of the book, Digital Inferno.

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