The ONLY Way to Respond to Bad News

Bad News Image

Lately we’ve had our share of bad news; a lot of good news too, so no worries. But everyone’s reactions and responses have really made me think. Some people make it all about them and how they will be affected by your tragedy, very helpful. Some people over react, the exact opposite of what you need if you are scared or sad or trying to wrap your mind around a crappy situation. Some people have no reaction and can leave you wondering why you bothered to call them in the first place. And my personal favorite is all of the advice and “at least” comments. You know, “at least it’s not cancer” is a big one. Over the years I have learned a few things about people and their responses and it helps to remember the following when sharing your news.

  • No one is happy about your bad news, I promise
  • Everyone really is sad for you and concerned
  • Everyone wants to say the right thing
  • Everyone wants to make you feel better
  • Everyone is looking for the bright side
  • Some people just cannot help thinking about themselves
  • No one means to make things worse

Take a lot of deep breaths as you listen and remember all of these points, then get off of the phone. Remembering that people are good and your people really are on your side helps while you listen to their advice and stammering. Give them grace; they really just do not know what to say. We have all been there when we want to say just the right thing and something stupid comes out.

And if you are the one receiving the news from your friends or family, let me fill you in on the ONLY good response to their bad news. Here it is, and it’s life changing.

I am so sorry.

Ok, one more time. I am so sorry. Did you get that? I am so sorry. Did you get the most important part of that sentence? The period. That’s right, the period is there for a reason, so you do not feel like you have to say more. You can say you wish they were not going through this or you wish there was more you could say. But really you are better off just saying, I am so sorry period, if you are unsure.

My grandmother died – I am so sorry

My sister is in jail – I am so sorry

I have been diagnosed with some terrible sickness – I am so sorry

My husband lost his job – I am so sorry

Do you see how universal those four words are? I am from the South so I will throw in a honey or a darlin’ but ultimately those four words are all you need. Listen, support and ASK them what they need then repeat, I am so sorry.