Breaking Bad News

At some point, we all have to give bad news to another person. Whether it’s breaking up with a significant other, firing a coworker, or whatever, we all need to do it. Quartz recently published the story of an oncologist who has to give bad news every day about the best practices for doing this. While his advice is certainly a little skewed about letting someone know they have cancer, it can come in handy in just about any situation where you need to convey information that the other person might not want to hear.

Plan for the future

The first step is drawing up a plan. If you do not have a clear idea of ​​what you are trying to say, you are more likely to get confused and get less than stellar delivery. Plan the conversation, and also have any other conversations you may need related to the problem. For example, if you are telling your roommate that you need to move out, let them know that you’ve already talked to the landlord and that they don’t mind your roommate finding someone new and adding them to the lease. Do as much running around as possible beforehand so that you don’t have a ton of endless questions after the meeting.

Get to the point

There is no need to add a huge preamble to the bad news. You are doing both yourself and the person you are talking to. Instead, go straight to the point of the conversation. As you break news, don’t be afraid to pause from time to time to allow the other person to ask questions or share their thoughts.


Nobody wants to give bad news, but everyone has bad news at some point in their lives. Think about how you would feel in the position of the other person, and try to empathize with him.

When you break bad news while thinking of the other person, the two of you are likely to have a better conversation.


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