Tips on Conveying Negative Messages
we are placed in situations where we have to: deny a request;
refuse an application; inform about a tragedy or a failure;
avoid a special favour; inform that some problem cannot be
rectified; provide explanations about lapses in services or
commitments; inform of the intention to discontinue a personal
or business relationship; place a complaint or say anything
that may be unpleasant for the recipient it is a situation
requiring the conveying of a "negative message",
and hence requires tact that needs to be carefully groomed.
Whether the "negative message" needs to be conveyed
in writing or in speech, similar principles apply for the
development of this special kind of diplomacy and here are
a few pointers to that end. The ultimate philosophy of all
"tips" or "guidelines" is to find such
a way to convey the message that the severity of the impact
on the recipient can be minimized without changing the accuracy
of the content or hampering relationships.
Before simply delivering a "negative message", one
needs to understand that the message could be painful for
the recipient/s and therefore should try imagining themselves
in the same situation, and think in what form they would have
preferred the same message to be presented. Some call this
"sugar coating", and erroneously believe that it's
far more "praiseworthy" to be "straight forward"
and "direct", but they should ask themselves that
if the same information can be conveyed in a less hurtful
manner, then why should they not resort to the diplomatic
method? They should also question themselves about what greatness
is achieved in causing some extra suffering, especially since
it can be avoided. Telling someone "sorry, your application
has been rejected", would damage a person's self esteem,
but saying "we would welcome you to try for this job
next year please" conveys the accurate information of
rejection, but does not hurt the sentiments of the applicant.
getting too long-winded:
The indirectness cannot be overdone and the message cannot
be camouflaged within too many optimistic notes as that may
explanations and reasons first:
If one has to decline a request or explain a lapse or failure,
it's always best to begin by providing the explanations of
why the task may have been very difficult or of what obstacles
lay in the path of the fulfillment of the assignment, and
then gradually give the negative message. However the explanations
cannot get so long that the recipient loses patience.
the bad news between layers of hope:
Showing optimism and providing explanations at the start,
and expressing hope for better results in the future, at the
finish, with the bad news compressed in-between, is the best
proven way to convey news of any failure. Even regarding things
where future scopes may not lie, it's always best to provide
some apologies and consolation at the end.
sympathy of empathy:
Rather than just only consoling, it helps to offer sympathy
and understanding. It's even better to empathise by sharing
similar experiences as that makes the recipient of the negative
message feel less isolated.
to show pity:
One needs to demarcate between feelings like sympathy and
empathy as opposed to "pity" which ends up making
the recipient feel as though the giver of the message is looking
at him/her in a condescending manner.
It's very important to appear sincere while expressing optimism,
consolation, sympathy or empathy to avoid hurting the recipient
further. Words have to be chosen carefully and the body language
has to match with the total presentation, especially when
giving the news in face to face interactions.
A lot of the times, the recipient of a rejection message feels
at a loss, and does not know what else to do. In such a situation
if the giver of the negative message can help by indicating
some solutions or alternatives, it not only helps the recipient,
but improves the relationship between the giver and the recipient
of the negative message.
extra help in other avenues:
One of the best ways to deny a request or a favour is to offer
some extra help in some other avenue which would not be difficult
for the one who is denying. Expressing greatest interest in
fulfilling future requests, but making no promises, giving
possible reasons for present failure or inability and indication
of whole hearted intention to still try are the best researched
ways of turning down undue requests!
hoped that practicing even some of these simple and "easy
to remember" guidelines would help the reader get through
difficult and maybe even embarrassing situations requiring
the conveying of negative messages in personal as well as
official life. Best of luck in handling such situations!
(R) thedailystar.net 2005