How To Receive Bad News
Receiving bad news is one of the worst feelings – it’s often unexpected; it can be damaging or life changing. When it happens, I can feel my throat get tight, and I try to swallow but I can’t. My stomach feels empty and drops, as if I’m on a rollercoaster. You’d think that after receiving “bad news” a few times throughout my life, I’d be better at receiving it, but I’m not. It’s the same amount of difficulty each time. I’m the same amount surprised, confused, upset or sad.
Bad news comes in all types of forms – a personal or family illness, a break up with a significant other or a close friend, losing a job – and some will be more difficult to handle than others for each of us individually. I know how hard it is to process this unwelcoming news, let alone how to move forward afterwards. How can I move forward when I can’t even process things in this single moment?
Therefore, I did some research to come up with the best ways to handle bad news. We need to be realistic about things – bad news will find its way to us; that’s life. I know I sound a bit like a pessimist, but seriously, the reality is that good things happen to us and not so great things happen to us, and we just have to figure out how to navigate the ups and downs of our lives.
An article from Psychology Today shared three tips to handle bad news: perspective, weighing out the options, and a silver lining. Perspective refers to taking a look at your situation and really putting it into perspective. Many times, when I’m bombarded with bad news, I can’t think straight or logically. I feel like my thoughts are cloudy and I can’t really figure out what I’m thinking or how I’m feeling. I think this happens for a lot of different reasons: I’m caught off guard; I’m immediately hurt by the issue; and I just don’t know what to do next. For this reason, it’s important to figure out a way to calm down, even for just a few seconds, to bring yourself back to earth, back to reality, back to the moment in real time. I don’t think you need to push away your thoughts or feelings – they’re important ones to address – but I do think it’s helpful to try to think logically about the situation for a few minutes. This is especially important to me because I tend to act impulsively, or I think before I speak. Taking the time to evaluate the situation can prevent me from saying or doing things out of character.
Secondly, it can be helpful to weigh out the options of the situation. Although it can be difficult, I have always found it helpful to ask myself, “what’s the worst case scenario?” I’m sure that might not be useful in every single bad situation, but with my anxiety, I run into different fears everyday (not all of them bad news, obviously), and in order to keep my head thinking clearly and not jumping around, I need to just stop and say, “okay, so what is the worst that can happen?” Then I answer myself and I think, “okay, I have to be alright with that.” But just as much as we weigh out the negative circumstances, we can also introduce the positive ones. I think this helps to understand the situation as a whole, and hopefully you can get a better sense of what to expect – good or bad.
Finally, it’s always nice to look for a silver lining; take the negative and turn it into a positive. You lost your job, that’s difficult. But on the bright side of things, you are now free to look for another more fulfilling job. Maybe you’ve wanted to change industries or careers. Here is the opportunity to do that. Maybe a loved one has found out they have a life changing illness. Although this is absolutely saddening, it can also force you to look at life differently; appreciate this person and life so much more; spend more time with loved ones and family; and be grateful for all you have.
I always remind myself that I have the control to feel how I want to feel or to act how I want to act. Bad news shouldn’t control me and my actions. I don’t have to let bad news get the best of me or change me. I have the option to receive bad news and feel hopeless, or I have the option to pick myself up and learn how to continue living. As hard as it is, I can slowly evaluate the situation, process it, and learn to accept it in a way that I feel comfortable doing. I have the control and the strength to do that; it’s just getting past all the temporary blurriness.