How to Tell Someone Bad News

If delivering bad news is a struggle, these tips will ease the stress.


Up next in How to Improve Your Communication Skills (68 videos)

Whether you're dealing with friends, family, a lover, or co-workers, you'll benefit from the communication skills taught in this Howcast video series. Among the advice included: how to tell someone off; how to deliver an ultimatum; how to complain; how to solve creative differences; how to give a compliment; how to take criticism; how to apologize; how to read social cues; how to learn to say no; and much more.


You Will Need

  • A private location
  • Tissues
  • A friend of family member (optional)


  1. Step 1

    Rehearse the bad news

    Practice saying the bad news and focus on words or phrases to use and ones to avoid.

  2. Step 2

    Meet in private

    Meet somewhere private where you can talk quietly without interruption, such as a bedroom, bathroom, or windowless office.

  3. Bring a friend or family member along for comfort if you do not know the person you are talking to very well.

  4. Step 3

    Find out what they know

    Find out what the person knows to avoid repeating information and prolonging an uncomfortable situation.

  5. Step 4

    Get to the point

    Get right to the point and don't ramble or make small talk. This delays the inevitable and can increase tension.

  6. Be as clear as possible when delivering bad news. Avoid using metaphors or euphemisms.

  7. Step 5

    Comfort the person

    Comfort the person with a touch when appropriate, but be aware of social or cultural conventions that may make the situation worse.

  8. Step 6

    Answer questions

    Make time to answer questions and allow the person to grieve if necessary. Offer a tissue.

  9. Positive thinking can lower stress, increase a person's life span, boost their immune system, and reduce their risk of a heart attack.