Dr Schomer: How to best deliver bad news to friends and family

As much as we prefer to give happy news, there are times when we have no choice but to relay messages of doom and gloom and quite often we would like a way to soften the blow.

At the age of 22 Africa Melane was tasked with delivering bad news to his cousin about the death of her mother who stayed in the Eastern Cape. He then asked his grandmother how to best execute the task. She advised him to write a note, take the note with him to visit the cousin. She then told him to talk about anything but the bad news. On his way out he should hand over the note and leave.

As he was about to get into his car he heard the loudest scream coming out of his cousin house. He says he then knew that was not the best way to deliver the news.

CapeTalk/702 presenter Africa Melane spoke to Dr Helgo Schomer about the appropriate way to deliver bad news.

When a person receives bad news they always have some kind of reaction, some cry, some get angry, some sit quietly in shock and some refuse to believe what they were told

Dr Helgo Schomer

There is no best way to deliver bad news but Dr Schomer gives these 5 principles as guidance:

  • Set the stage – find a place which will be suitable for both parties
  • Prepare yourself to feel bad as well as being emotional
  • Deliver the news clearly and unequivocally – don’t sugar-coat
  • Be there for the person who is receiving the bad news
  • Be polite
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