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10 Strategies to Break Bad News with Compassion


Giving someone bad news is never easy and there is no proper method to do it.

Fortunately, you can improve your communication skills to make things easier for them and for you. The way of delivering the news differs depending on whether you are talking to a child or an adult.

To start with, you need to make sure your delivery is good. Your tone can mean everything when it comes to getting the message across. When you are precise and calm in your delivery, those who receive it will clearly understand what you are trying to tell them.

Did you know that people often model your behavior when confronted? If you attack them with a combative tone, they are likely to return your attitude. You can expect some opposition or rejection if you are firing someone, but you will not get the same kind of response if you tell someone about your relative’s death.

When delivering bad news, you should make sure to use compassion and empathy. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes for a minute and see how you would react. The individual knows that they cannot solve their problem, but they will want to feel that they understand their feelings.

Five tips for giving bad news to a child

One of the hardest things you’ll ever do is break bad news to kids. The challenging aspect is that they don’t understand why their level of maturity is not yours. The age of the child influences the way you will talk to him about the matter.

Children can feel emotions. of their parents and those around them, even if they do not have the ability to understand what is happening. The goal is to explain it to you in the most simplistic way possible. When it comes to elementary school kids, they don’t need too much detail, as their brains can’t process that data.

However, when a child is around ten years old, they can have more meaningful conversations with you, so you don’t have to beat around the bush. Here are some tips on how to deliver bad news to kids.

1. Be honest

Many people think that children cannot handle the truth, but what they cannot handle is being lied to. If you learn something today, remember that children will always find out if you are lying. If your beloved pet died, don’t tell them it got away or some other made up tale.

Sit down and discuss life and death with them; after all, death is as much a part of life as living. When you are not honest, you can allow their little minds to try to come up with fantastic explanations that can scare them. What happens if one of the parents loses his job and the child will be forced to move?

Moving can be quite scary for a child, but what they need from their parents is to know that they have a beautiful, warm home waiting for them. Losing a job, even for a child, can be overwhelming. They need to know from you that everything is going to be okay.

2. Don’t overwhelm them with details

Your child does not need all the details about the situation. If you and your spouse are getting divorced, you don’t need to know if there were cheating and substance abuse problems. They need to know that they are still loved and that they will be cared for regardless of what happens.

They also need to know that mom or dad will continue to be an active part of their life. Being honest doesn’t mean you have to say everything you know. If that parent has done the wrong things, let your child draw his conclusions later in life.

It is never wise to speak ill of a spouse because it will only make the situation worse for the child who loves them.

3. Give them a chance to talk

Don’t drop a bomb on a child and then leave. They need to be given the opportunity to speak. It is quite therapeutic for a child to openly express what he is thinking.

Don’t assume that just because they are younger they don’t understand, because most children understand more than you think. The last thing you want to do is allow them to harbor resentment and develop bad feelings about the issue later on.

4. Repeat the important information twice

The point must come to the child, so you may need to repeat parts of what you say twice. Children can only eat a certain amount at a time, so repeating the important parts ensures they get the news. If the key issue is divorce, reiterate that you are getting divorced, but that you will always be loved and cared for.

5. Show affection

Depending on the child and the situation, it is usually appropriate to follow up on horrible news with an outward expression of affection. If you have just told your child that you are getting divorced from her other parent, she needs a hug to help solidify the feeling that she is okay. Watch them later like children can get depressed also.

Five tips for delivering bad news to adults

Giving horrible news to an adult is a different ball game than handing it to a child. Adults can handle the big issues, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need empathy and kindness. Here are some tips on how to compassionately deliver horrible news to adults.

1. Try not to take them by surprise

In some respects, there is no way to avoid misleading a person with horrible news. However, if you can give them advance notice, it can be helpful. People who receive bad news without warning often react negatively.

2. make sure you are in a comfortable environment

The environment in which the news is delivered is also critical. When it comes to private and hurtful things, you don’t want to tell him in a restaurant that’s packed for the dinner rush. Use tact and choose a place where you can speak frankly and privately so that you are not forced to deal with emotions in public.

3. Use tactful writing

Choose your words wisely. It’s okay to rehearse your speech in front of a mirror before giving it to them. If you are telling your spouse that you are leaving and are in love with someone else, then you certainly want to choose your words wisely.

If you come to them in an overly emotional state, they will return the emotions to you. Try to be calm, collected and collected. Some topics will cause an explosion of emotions no matter how discreet your writing is, but you should do the best you can with the situation.

4. Have the tissues ready

If you’re going to deliver life-changing news, it helps to have your tissues ready. Knowing that a parent has passed away is devastating and there will be tears. Please give them a shoulder to cry on and let them know that you are there for them.

The worst thing you can do is compare your pain to theirs, because even if you lost your father, you don’t know how they feel. Your emotions and feelings are different and it is not helpful to calm someone down by telling them that you understand their pain. It can anger some people if you have never experienced it, and try to draw such parallels.

5. Follow up with them later

If you’ve dealt a devastating blow to someone with bad news, don’t leave them alone. You should contact them again later. If you just told someone that your spouse cheated on you or that your father died, then you need to follow up. Grief can affect emotions of all kinds, and if someone already has mental health problems, they may become suicidal or very depressed.

Check in with this person in a few hours and then stay in touch with them for the next few days. If you are dealing with a devastating situation, you will need your friendship and compassion to help them traverse the mountain they face.

Final thoughts on delivering bad news with compassion and grace

Whether it’s an adult or a child, there is no easy way to tell someone life-altering news. Above all, use empathy and kindness because you never know when it will be your turn to receive such devastating news. Life changes and things happen that continually alter your destiny, but your ability to help others in these times will speak of you as a person.

When it is your turn to receive bad news, the same kindness that you extend to others will return to you. Some situations are not easy to handle, no matter how eloquently someone breaks the news, but you can show love and support to make the difficult time easier to handle.


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