Different Ways to Handle News You Don’t Want to Hear

“When people know the reason things are happening, even if it’s bad news, they can adjust their expectations and react accordingly.” ~ Simon Sinek

Photo by cottonbro studio on Pexels.com

Nobody LIKES bad news, myself included. But sometimes it happens. A divorce. A relationship gone sour. An unexpected expense. A health condition. A unforseen or unfortunate change in circumstances.

I tend to lean towards the more practical side. While I may be frustrated, I verbalize my frustrations and then go into survival mode. Not dramatic over-the-top preparations like the dude above in the photo. More of a “deal with it and move on” mentality. There are a few key people in whom I confide, not everyone needs to know my business or the ins-and-outs of my personal life.

It is interesting how some people react to bad news. Especially for someone who doesn’t hem haw around, I like to lay the news right out there, bluntly honest about the facts.

The Glosser – this is the person who hears you but doesn’t HEAR you. They are already forming their next sentence in their head and the words you’re speaking don’t soak in. Whatever the reason, they gloss right over the bad news without reacting and move on to their own situation.

The Pollyanna – this is the person who HEARS your words, but attempts to bolster your spirits that it isn’t as bad as you’re saying it is. You may not have even come from the perspective of it’s “awful” but the response is prefixed with, “Well maybe they’re mistaken . . . ” or “Well maybe you misunderstood . . . ” First of all, I don’t share bad news off the cuff. I don’t share bad news unless I have the facts. Arguing with me or downplaying the news just pisses me off.

The Drama Queen – “Oh my God!! What are you going to do?!?!?!” Let’s have an overblown reaction why don’t we? I am not a dramatic person. As I said previously, I state facts. Logical facts. Bluntly logical facts. What am I going to do? I’m going to do what I need to do to deal with the bad news — that’s what I’m going to do.

The Coach – “We’re going to get through this.” No, I’M going to get through this – because it’s my bad news. There’s nothing anyone else can do to get through this. You can be supportive, but this is not a team event. When I’m taking chemo, it’s not as if I can take a break one month and let someone else take the medicine and endure the side effects. Not to be rude, but some bad news is a solo flight.

The Doula – this is the person who has the insight to ask, “What can I do to help you get through this?” and THEN THEY LISTEN. This person is available to listen and offer support without being condescending or overriding the bad news bearer’s needs.

The Narccissitic Helper – “Let me help you!” It does absolutely nothing to ask what you can do to help, if you ignore the requests. Even if the request does not align with what you want to do for this person, forcing someone to allow visits, accept help or assistance that is unwelcome is rude and adds to the effects of the bad news. This is the person who does things to “help” while patting their own back and drawing attention to the help they’ve provided.

Sometimes the person going through the bad news is already stretched to their limit. While someone may think that coming in and taking over gives the person a rest, it is often more stressful. Pushing your way into someone’s home, or private space is an invasion during a time of high stress. I talked about this several years ago when I discussed what to do when a friend or family member loses a child.

  • Some people may welcome help, some may want to crawl into their space and hibernate.
  • Visitors may leave the person feeling as if they need to entertain despite the stressful situation.
  • “Peopling” takes energy, sometimes it’s energy that could be better used elsewhere.
  • By “peopling” I mean phone calls, visits, texts, etc.
  • During bad news experiences, there are some things that you cannot control. Some people need to be able to do their own things such as laundry or dishes because it gives them a sense of control during a bad situation. Stepping in and doing these things without asking first can add to the sense of stress.

I hope this helps someone somewhere know how to react to bad news.

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