There comes a time in each of our lives when we are the recipient of “bad news.” You know, the news that kicks you in the gut and for that moment, the world stands still. A few of the “bad news” topics that we have supported our clients through include: the loss of a valued employee, important client, respected boss, desired promotion and promising job; the loss of a marriage, the failure of a business, the death of a parent; the diagnosis of diabetes, cancer, and the loss of health.
Bad news in one’s lifetime is inevitable. How we deal with bad news is the stuff that builds character and predicts how we will behave as we navigate the future.
So, what is the best way to deal with bad news?
First and foremost, you need to pause, secondly you need to soothe, and finally you need to plan.
- Most of you probably know that pausing (see article on The Pause) would be our first recommended step. When you pause, you interrupt any triggered reaction and it gives you the opportunity to move forward with a considered response.
- This doesn’t just happen once and you are done, this happens over and over as you make sense of the bad news, as the information sinks in, as you grieve and as you move forward.
- And, over and over we’d encourage you to pause when you find yourself reactive so that you can be thoughtfully responsive.
- Next, you need to soothe yourself. Self-soothing is taking the time and space, while being kind and gentle, to let yourself feel the grief of the loss you have sustained and then gather the strength to carry on.
- Self-soothing is probably the primary skill that is required of adulthood that no one talks about. If you didn’t learn how to self-soothe in your family, finding a coach or therapist to help you learn now will be a game-changer.
- Self-soothing holds you in respect, reminds you that you matter, and provides gentleness for your soul as you deal with what has come into your life.
- Finally, you need to establish a plan that will take you into the future. (Planning is the third item on the list because until you engage in the first and second steps you are not in the optimal headspace to take action on your own behalf.)
- Planning, like pausing and self-soothing, is something you do over and over again in response to bad news. The first plan could be about finding time and support to make sense of the news while the following plans could be about major life decisions, depending on the news.
- Planning is often most powerful when you take the time to envision what you want to create in response to the bad news and then begin to identify the steps and resources you will need to move forward.
One of the things that makes us human is that we consciously face loss, sadness and challenge – no one is immune – not the rich, famous, successful, or powerful. It is the nature of being alive.
Spend some time this week thinking about what you can do in your life to boost your ability to pause, self-soothe and plan so that when you are facing bad news you are as prepared as is possible.