Today’s Solutions: February 26, 2024

Here at The Optimist Daily, solutions news is our specialty. However, life can sometimes get in the way and we may find ourselves, no matter how optimistic we are, in a situation where we have to deliver bad news. This is an unpleasant and difficult undertaking that demands careful consideration of not only what you say, but also how you say it. We frequently use sentences that we believe will bring consolation, but in actuality, they may exacerbate the situation. Let’s look at the common phrases to avoid and explore some useful substitutes.

“It could be worse.”

Although intended to provide perspective, this phrase may come out as contemptuous. As licensed psychologist Ray W. Christner describes it, it “[dismisses] the experience and invalidates the person’s feelings.” Instead, show empathy by acknowledging their emotions.

“Everything happens for a reason.”

Giving the impression that negative news has a rationale could be disturbing. Aura De Los Santos, a professional psychologist, recommends being direct and clear about the problem. Avoid making it seem as if their misfortune serves a bigger purpose.

“You’ll be over this in no time.”

Even though this phrase is often well-intentioned, in actuality it shows a lack of empathy to minimize the situation’s importance and impact. De Los Santos recommends employing a straightforward and clear communication style. Allow the receiver to assimilate the information without decreasing its effect.

“I know exactly how you feel.”

Recognize the uniqueness of each individual’s experience. Instead of professing to understand, show your support by stating, “I’m sure that’s difficult, and I’m here for you in any way you need.”

“At least…”

This minimizing sentence is neither useful nor considerate. Avoid using it, even if you mean well, because it may offend rather than comfort.

“You should be thankful that…”

Using judgmental language only makes a bad situation worse. Hannah Yang, a licensed psychologist and founder of Balanced Awakening, advises not imposing your judgment and instead encouraging the receiver to process the bad news on their own terms.

Tried and true techniques for delivering bad news
1. Pause: 

Rushing through a conversation can be harmful. “It’s OK to pause and have a moment of silence to intentionally choose the words you want to use,” Christner remarks.

2. Use compassionate language:

Select terms that communicate empathy and openness. Hannah Yang suggests language that helps the receiver navigate their emotions with support.

3. Stick to the facts:

Communicate the facts honestly and without downplaying the situation. Yang proposes waiting for the receiver’s answer before providing more information.

Approaching these challenging conversations with care and avoiding clichéd language can make a major difference. Remember that the purpose is not only to give news but also to offer true support during difficult times.

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