Sensitive Messages
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Sensitive Messages. Includes material from Guffey text Ch 11. Communication Matters: Discussion . A Sorry Strategy Share a time you received bad news did the sender use any of the techniques discussed in the article? Was the approach effective?. Goals in Communicating Bad News.

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Includes material from guffey text ch 11

Sensitive Messages

Includes material from Guffey text Ch 11

Communication matters discussion
Communication Matters: Discussion

A Sorry Strategy

  • Share a time you received bad news

    • did the sender use any of the techniques discussed in the article?

    • Was the approach effective?

Goals in communicating bad news
Goals in CommunicatingBad News

  • To make the reader understand and accept the bad news

  • To promote and maintain a good image of the writer and the writer’s organization

  • To make the message so clear that additional correspondence is unnecessary

  • To avoid legal liability

The indirect pattern



Bad News


The Indirect Pattern

The indirect pattern1
The Indirect Pattern

  • BUFFER – a neutral or positive opening that does not reveal the bad news

  • REASONS – an explanation of the causes for the bad news

  • BAD NEWS – a clear but understated announcement of the bad news that may include an alternative or compromise

  • CLOSE – a personalizing, forward-looking, pleasant statement

Buffering the opening
Buffering the Opening

  • Good news

  • Agreement/Understanding

  • Apology (customers only)

  • Compliment

  • Appreciation

  • Facts


  • Justify the bad news with objective reasons (without revealing bad news

  • Avoid blaming the reader or hiding behind company policy

  • Use objective, nonjudgmental language - avoid negativity (unfortunately, impossible)

  • Show empathy and fairness

  • Identify reader (or other’s) benefits

  • Focus on maintaining the relationship

    • avoid being blunt or insensitive

    • Use resale, if appropriate

Bad news
Bad News

  • Explain the bad news clearly, but don’t accentuate it.

  • Avoid negative language.

  • Say the bad news once and move on to a focus on the future/alternatives.

  • Never repeat the bad news

Bad news1
Bad News

  • Subordinating bad news in passive voice

    • although our equipment can’t be loaned, we wish you well in . . .

  • Implying bad news in passive voice

    • Because our equipment is sold only through dealers, we invite you to examine it at your local Stereo City.

Passive voice verbs
Passive-Voice Verbs

Rewrite these sentences in passive voice:

  • Because of our Web site, we are no longer offering a printed catalog.

  • We are unable to grant your request for a loan.

Subordinating bad news
Subordinating Bad News

Subordinating formula:

While/Although (bad news in passive voice), (alternative in active voice)

Rewrite subordinating the bad news:

  • It is impossible for us to ship your complete order at this time. However, we are able to send the four oak desks now; you will receive them within five days.

Implying bad news
Implying Bad News

Implying formula:

Because/Since (reason in passive voice), (alternative in active voice).

Rewrite implying the bad news:

  • I already have a prior engagement in my appointment calendar for March 31st. Therefore, I am unable to speak to your group. However, I would like to recommend another speaker.

Implying bad news1
Implying Bad News

Rewrite implying the bad news:

  • Because of the holiday period, all our billboard space was used this month. Therefore, we are sorry to say that we could not give your group display space. However, next month we hope to display your message.


  • Supply more information about an alternative, if one is offered.

  • Look forward to future business.

  • Offer good wishes and compliments.

  • Avoid referring to the refusal/bad news.

  • End on a positive, friendly note.

Use the direct pattern

When organization policy/culture suggests directness

When the receiver prefers directness

When firmness is necessary. Employee disciplinary actions.

When the bad news is insignificant

Use the Direct Pattern