Saturday, October 18, 2014

Bad News is SO Much Better than No News. Seriously

We've all been in that situation where we don't feel like telling someone something and so we don't communicate with them promptly. I don't know about you, but for me it's always been something like:
  • I don't want them to know bad news
  • I haven't actually done what's needed to give them a response
  • I am consumed by something and feel like I can't do anything else
I'm sure there are a number of other reasons too. And obviously, we get to decide how to respond if something is not another person's business or if it is only their business ambiguously. I'm talking about when it is absolutely their business and we actually owe them an answer, either out of obligation, out of respect, or both.

Having been on the receiving end of silence of the but-it-is-my-business variety an awful lot recently, I have realized how utterly powerless we are when we do not get the information we are seeking. It's especially true when we have to make a series of decisions or when other people are depending on us to act based on the information we receive. Even if entirely by accident, silence can be quite the implement of psychological destruction.

Sure, it is true that someone can make inferences from our silence, but inferences are just smartly-dressed assumptions, and assumptions just plain-old suck. They actually suck 4,327 gallons of same-day hog manure that has spent exactly six hours in warm sunlight. That bad. People don't want to have to make inferences based on silence. They don't want to spin ridiculous scenarios in their heads, trying to figure out what's going on. They just want the answer, even if it's the less-awesome one.

So if someone asks something of us:
  • How is [this project that affects me] going?
  • Any updates on That Big Decision that affects me?
  • Want to hang out Saturday?
  • Have you talked to so-and-so about This Important Thing yet?
They are asking us for an answer. They may hope it's a certain answer, but nowhere in the question do they say, "and go ahead and remain silent if you can't give me the answer you think I want."

So we owe it to them to give an answer, as quickly as possible. We need to get it out of our heads that it's better off if we just don't tell them we haven't made any progress, or that things didn't go well and we had to start over, or that no, This doesn't bode well for That. That's all still information they can use, and they want it. And when we do not give it to them, we are not helping them one bit. And we are only badly shielding ourselves from accountability anyway. It's going to come out one way or the other, so we may as well give it the clearest path possible.

Despite our faulty assumptions, bad news is almost always better than none at all, and so we owe it to ourselves, and the people around us, to figure out how to deliver it. 


Does that sound right? This was pretty short (for me), and rolled off the fingers pretty easily, so I'd love to hear what I may have missed, and of course what other people think!

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