Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Have you ever had to deliver bad news to somebody?

Have you ever asked do you want to hear the good news or the bad news first?

This is a common scenario and one that you want to be prepared for because it comes up often.

Though you may not necessarily know the best approach, you can think through what will work best with the person you are talking to.

We’re going to look at this and how you can make it as positive as possible, even with bad news in the mix.

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Thinking Through How To Deliver Good and Bad News The Right Way

You have probably found yourself in a scenario where you have had to deliver bad news to somebody.

Today we will discuss this type of scenario because it happens often, and you want to be as prepared as possible.

The phrase that you will hear used often and you can use yourself is “I have good news and bad news.”

Typically you will follow that up with asking the person you are talking to which they would like to hear first.

You may be somebody who likes to hear the bad news first, as that tends to be a common reaction to things.

There’s actually a lot of thoughts and interesting information out there about this type of scenario.

There’s actually a good article on this subject that is well worth reading for some reference. “Why you should always deliver the bad news first” Jan 23, 2018 / Dan Pink

It’s a great read and you should check it out, but there are a few key takeaways that you can get from it.

  • Studies have been done that say most people choose to hear bad news first: This may be what your instinct is telling you and the studies prove that this is the best way to go.
  • Generally if  you are on the giving end of the news, you want to say the good news first. You will feel better saying something positive first. This is a good way to look at it and to sort of ease somebody into things.
  • The article discusses how there is a preference for ending in a positive way. So as you can see there are a lot of different thoughts on this.

There is a lot of other great information in the article, particularly on endings.

These are the basics and give you something to think about in this scenario that isn’t always a favorite for many of us.

Examples and Other Ways of Saying This

You have probably been in a situation where you had to share bad news and good news alike.

You have likely been on the receiving end, as well as the one sharing the news.

It helps to think of examples though so that you can put yourself into this situation and consider how you might handle them when they come about.

Here are a few examples of a good news/bad news type of scenario.

  • You get a scholarship to the school you least wanted to go to
  • You won an award, but there are no more tickets to the ceremony
  • Your new dog is adorable, but he used the bathroom over the floor

There are also phrases that may be useful in helping you to deliver the news one way or the other.

You want to tap into these so that you know what to say and how to tell somebody something that they may not necessarily want to hear.

  • End on a high/positive note: You may have to say something that isn’t so great, but you want to leave things in a positive way. Therefore you could say “I want to end on a high note at school since I’m graduating in the summer.”
  • Save the best for last: This is a perfect instance where you are sharing the bad news first, but then saving the best part for the end. Saving the best for last means that you can end things in a positive manner. You could say “I want to save the best for last. Give me the bad news.”
  • Get it out of the way/get it over with: This is a time when you might feel that you need to get the bad news out there first. It may feel like putting the bad news out first is a better option. You could say “Let’s get the bad news over with.”

All of these phrases and examples help you to see how this can work.

Nobody wants to deliver bad news, but if you have some good news to go along with it that helps a lot.

Whenever possible, try to end things on a positive note for you and the person you are talking to.

Roleplay To Help

In this roleplay, Michelle is telling Lindsay about a movie she is excited to go to with her.

Michelle: “So Lindsay I have good news and bad news. Which one do you want to hear first?”

Lindsay: “Umm, the bad news. I like to end on a positive note.”

Michelle: “Okay so, I’ll get the bad news out of the way . The bad news is the movie was sold out other than the first row.”

Lindsay: “Oh no! Alright, let’s save the best for last. What’s the good news?”

Michelle: “But the good news is I have tickets for next week!”


Try to give bad news before good news in most cases because it typically works better that way.

Think about what you like to hear first, and then frame it that way in your discussions.

What does this mean for language learning?

We can do a followup on that, but in the meantime think about all of this the next time that you are asking somebody which they prefer.

This is a very interesting part of learning the language and the way in which you deliver news to somebody.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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