Being the bearer of bad news is never fun, but if you do it wrong it can be even worse. So here are four steps to help you deliver bad news in the best way possible.
Step One: Drop a Warning. Tell the person they should sit down, or just say you need to talk about something serious. It probably won't make the bad news any easier to hear, but it's better than just blurting it out.
Step Two: Don't Beat Around the Bush. Once you've dropped a warning, tell them what they need to hear in plain English, using as few words as possible. If you're vague or you don't tell them right away, they'll be confused and frustrated.
Step Three: Don't Try to Soften the Blow. A lot of people end up hedging the bad news with something that's not really true because they feel guilty and want to make the person feel better. It's a natural reaction, but it can undermine the whole point of telling them bad news in the first place. Even doctors do it: According to a recent study, as many as one-in-four cancer specialists will give a patient bad news, then follow it up with something that softens the blow, whether it's accurate or not.
Step Four: Be More Than Just the Messenger. Once the person hears the news, they might need to talk. So prepare yourself to be supportive. One situation when you might NOT want to offer support is if you're breaking up with the person. In that case, don't try to be a shoulder to cry on because it'll just make them angrier.