Pinkcast 2.9: Which should you give first — good news or bad news?
LINKS AND FURTHER READING:
- The research, described in chapter 5 of WHEN: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, comes from social psychologists Angela Legg and Kate Sweeny. You can read their full paper here and a good summary here. Their work builds on this study by Linda Marshall and Robert Kidd.
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Another helpful Pinkcast!
I love getting a sneak peek at WHEN, and am looking forward to the book coming out (it’s already pre-ordered).
I tend to give bad news first, but mostly in the hopes of getting it out of the way. I hadn’t really thought much about why I do it that way, but it’s nice to hear there’s some science that supports that approach.
Like Lou, I’ve mostly tended to always give the bad news first to get it out of the way. The only exception is when there is a qualifier (a waiting period) on the good news. Eager to read your new book, Dan!
In health care it usually is bad new first. Except when I had colonoscopy my doctor (who is a friend) said “You are healthy— but I’m not saying you look good.”
Love the Pinkcast!
Which do you choose when the good news is not as good as the bad news is bad?
Can’t wait to read the new book, Dan! Sounds really interesting and timely (see what I did there). ?
“Peak end rule” rules again! Thank you Daniel Kahneman…
I’ve always liked the K-K-K principle.
First the ‘Kiss’ (you’ve been doing a great job) followed by the ‘Kick’ (but here’s what I want you to improve on) followed by another ‘Kiss” (I really appreciate all the good things you’ve been doing).
Good work Dan, Keep it up.
Another terrific PinkCast – – the one subscription I eagerly look forward to.
I would agree that it’s more important to leave people on a high note that to give good news only to dump the bad. The only exception would be those times when the bad news is so bad that the good news won’t even register. “Your best friend was just found dead out in a field. But hey, I just saved 15% on my auto insurance!”
Makes sense – if you know there’s good and bad news, it’s better to hear the bad news first and get it out of the way so you can enjoy the good news on its own. Delivering the good news first just leaves nervous anticipation of what the bad news is and you’re not even paying attention to what you’re hearing for the good news.
Here’s an idea, think contextually. That is, recognizing that ‘it depends’.
But here is the more important part: the moment you start trying to manipulate your audience, you are no longer communicating. At that point, it’s about your agenda.
I tend to give bad news first as well, I always had a suspicion that it’s better to end on a high note.
However I’m still not fully convinced it’s a right way. You say that the research suggest that “4 out of 5 people prefer bad news first” (so do I). But did the research look into how people react, feel and behave in both of those scenarios? It’s a basic principle that people tend to say they prefer one thing, but react better to the opposite things. In other words, we rarely know what’s really good for us.
That’s an interesting way of spinning it. Can’t wait to try it out.
I would always choose to counter bad news with good news and not good news followed by bad news.
I look forward to read your new book.
Today’s pinkcast somewhat resonates with Nancy Duarte’s presentation of how to structure good talks.
First by talking about what is (which could be something better) followed by what could be.
See her fantastic TED talk: The secret structure of great talks.
I have tended to give the bad news first but primarily because I ask what the recipient wants. It has been my experience that, when I say, “I’ve got good news and bad news, which do you want first?” the overwhelming majority asked for the bad news first. Needless to say, depending on how catastrophic the bad or stupendous the good I might not ask first.
Thanks for some science to back up my experience Dan 🙂
Good news before bad? No – Good news can wait, bad news can’t
Pithy, appropriate and uplifting! I’ve always done it the other way, but the science does make sense. Time to try something new.
The great thing about humans is that they are both subtle and messy. Finding coherent principles of communication in that scrum is no mean feat. I can’t wait to read the rest of your new book on timing (or should I have said something bad first?…) Thank you!
Loved this, Thanks dan.
I always ask for the bad news first, it’s just something I want to get out of the way, and sometimes I don’t care for the good news at all I want all the bad news because I think I can fix it all. Maybe I should rethink that.
If I don’t get the bad news first, I can’t focus on the good news! I’m too worried about what the bad news is – exaggerating it in my mind. So I wholeheartedly agree.
Is there a way for me to download your Pinkcast episodes to listen offline?
Thanks for the tip Dan. I never much thought about the sequencing of bad news vs good news but the research makes a lot of sense. Your friend Bob Sutton had a similar thought on a different topic in that when you leave an encounter, do you leave the person(s) with more energy or less energy – …or something like that. Finishing with good news would definitely fall into the more energy category. This seems to come naturally for some people, me, not so much and it’s something I’ve got to work on. So perhaps even in the absence of bad news, or luke-warm news, always aim to finish with uplifting good news.
One of my favorite expressions supports this little Pinkbit. The saying is “Bad news never ages well.” Get it out in the open first, talk about it, resolve things (when possible) and get to the good stuff! toddasana.co
You can always ask which they want first. Otherwise, yes, the bad news should come first. The good news then eases the tension, and usually gives a good perspective for returning to the bad news for a more productive discussion.
I teach this in my psychology class, and I never thought of it this way! We call it the Endings Bias. See Dan Gilbert’s book Stumbling on Happiness p. 222-226 for another way of looking at this same phenomenon where people would actually prefer a shorter life that ends well than a longer one that ended badly. Dan Ariely talks about it in Predictably Irrational as well, describing how people would prefer a salary that increased over a three year period over a salary that decreased over a three year period, even when the increasing salary adds up to less over the three years. We just gotta have that positive ending. It could also be seen as another version of the converse of loss aversion, I suppose.
Great advice, Dan. Thanks for sharing.
There are two different issues here: preference and results. It’s nice that preference (bad news first) is likely to match the results you want (leave on a happy note). But even people who prefer to hear the good news first would experience the bad news as more important (because more memorable) if you ended with it. They would also let that impression colour the rest of the interaction (dimming out the good news).
I prefer the bad news first! It does kill the buzz on the good news, but it is nice to know there is good news to follow the bad!
Thanks, Dan! & Congrats on the new book!!
I’m wondering if the activity of choosing (by asking the Q “do you want the good news or the bad news first”) makes the difference to the timing when breaking both news? i.e. How does the participatory nature of co-designing how to break the news affect the issue of timing? And since the study was done with mostly 20-year olds, is it applicable to people as we get older?
yeah… we should ask bad news first because, if a bad thing has happened, it may be cured by immediate action, hmmm, and good news has happened once, so it may be checked later . . . ! Am I right ?