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Turning Negative Messages into Positive Results
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We live in a world where bad news is often swept under the carpet and negative messages are offered in the best possible light, sometimes even to the point of dishonesty.  It can be especially difficult for brokers and team leaders, who must sift through the “Yes Men” and the filtered flow of information to get an accurate pulse on the quality of teamwork, productivity, attitudes and tensions within their office. Nevertheless, if you do operate in a position of authority over others, you will invariably be required to disclose bad news at times.  Successful diplomacy can be a true tightrope walk, but you can design words and ways of delivering tough messages that maintain healthy relationships.  The following, taken from The Success Series is a 5-Point Plan that can help in delivering the message.

1.  Manage your Tone

This identifies your attitude toward the listener and with what inflection a message is delivered.  It can betray or agree with the message you are trying to send – thus you could demonstrate sincerity and authenticity or anger, frustration, disappointment and sarcasm. Be careful not to send confusingly mixed signals, baseless negativity and pointless character attacks.  Remember that the purpose of negative comments or feedback is to create a personal awareness that can lead to correction or improvement in performance.  Therefore a tone of care and concern for the welfare of the other person is vital.

2.  Establish Empathy

Begin with encouragement that is neither over-the-top nor a formality.  The key to establishing a goodwill buffer zone is to demonstrate that you understand and appreciate the recipient’s point of view.  Most people instinctively know when bad news is coming so do your best to lessen and remove that anxiety.  By doing so you will have made a wise move in avoiding the path that swiftly leads to serious conflict. 

3.  Be Direct

Get to the point. Both negative and positive feedback should be given in a clear, calm, straightforward manner. The “stroke-and-shaft” methodology (giving an affirmation quickly followed by a criticism) does little more than erode the confidence. Avoid words like “but”, “however” and “although”. In essence, using a contradictory term in the middle of a sentence effectively tells the other person, “Don’t believe a word I’ve said until now.”

4.  Be Factual

Observations are the physical, tangible evidence of behaviors that have occurred.  Interpretations are your personal analyses of the events that have transpired.  During your conversation, be careful to explain what you have noticed, not what you think about it, and do so in a manner that is respectful rather than opinionated and downgrading. Conduct the conversation as a reporter might, with a journalistic approach that is simple, logical and plain. Ask questions to make certain you have all the facts.

5.  Close Positively

Rarely do the messengers of bad news offer any realistic or hopeful solutions.  Don’t just deliver the bad news and leave the recipient wallowing in despair.  Take some time to highlight their strengths and suggest possible future avenues of success.  Simple affirmative actions exhibit a significant degree of goodwill. 

In Closing

It is often quoted that a diplomat should be able to tell someone to go to hell and have them look forward to the trip. With that almost impossibility in mind, your communication, when faced with the ominous task of delivering a negative message, should be a positive tone of voice, establishment of goodwill, get to the point, state observations not opinions and above close with feasible solutions and an encouraging resolve. 


This article is part of “The Success Series” by Stefan Swanepoel author of 13 books and whitepapers, and a celebrated speaker to more than 500,000 people on five continents. Stefan is CEO of The RealtyU® Group, the largest real estate education network of training and career development companies in th


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