Should You Rip Off the Bandaid or Let Them Down Easy?

When you have to deliver bad news, do you just launch in, full force, or offer a polite pre-amble to buffer what’s about to come? Researchers at Brigham Young and South Alabama Universities found that recipients of bad news prefer the direct and clear approach.

145 study participants ranked a range of bad news scenarios – each communicated two different ways. They were asked how clear, considerate, direct, efficient, honest, specific and reasonable they perceived the messages to be. Clarity and directness won out over all other characteristics.

The research team does recommend a brief buffer at times. For example, if you’re firing someone, starting with “we need to talk,” allows the bad news recipient to prepare for what they’re about to hear.   But after that, they say get to the point. Don’t dilly-dally; no rambling lead in. State your point succinctly and respectfully.