Do you want the bad news or the good news first?

There’s good news and there’s bad news. Which do you want to hear first?

That depends on whether you are the giver or receiver of bad news, and if the news-giver wants the receiver to act on the information, according to researchers at the University of California, Riverside…It’s complicated.

The process of giving or getting bad news is difficult for most people, particularly when news-givers feel unsure about how to proceed with the conversation, psychologists Angela M. Legg and Kate Sweeny wrote…“The difficulty of delivering bad news has inspired extensive popular media articles that prescribe ‘best’ practices for giving bad news, but these prescriptions remain largely anecdotal rather than empirically based,” said Legg, who completed her Ph.D. in psychology in October, and Sweeny, assistant professor of psychology.

In a series of experiments, the psychologists found that recipients of bad news overwhelmingly want to hear that bad news first, while news-givers prefer to deliver good news first. If news-givers can put themselves in the recipient’s shoes, or if they’re pushed to consider how to make the recipient feel better, then they might be willing to give news like recipients want them to. Otherwise, a mismatch is almost inevitable.But that’s not the whole story. The researchers also determined that where good news is introduced in a conversation can influence the recipient’s decision to act or change his or her behavior…

Hiding bad news won’t be really effective if the desire is to change somebody’s behavior, such as encouraging them to get a prescription filled or lab work done, said Legg, the paper’s lead author…

“Doctors must give good and bad health news to patients, teachers must give good and bad academic news to students, and romantic partners may at times give good and bad relationship news to each other,” they wrote. “Our findings suggest that the doctors, teachers and partners in these examples might do a poor job of giving good and bad news because they forget for a moment how they want to hear the news when they are the patients, students, and spouses, respectively. News-givers attempt to delay the unpleasant experience of giving bad news by leading with good news while recipients grow anxious knowing that the bad news is yet to come. This tension can erode communication and result in poor outcomes for both news-recipients and news-givers.”

Or you can make the decision common to the media moguls who own most of the mainstream newscasts. Try to turn everything into entertainment and leave the average consumer as ignorant as they were beforehand.

One thought on “Do you want the bad news or the good news first?

  1. moss says:

    Love the cartoon. Republicans/phony populists/Confederacy types will never accept responsibility for what our corrupt society has wrought. Giving Democrats another excuse for doing nothing.

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