A common misconception most people have is that a negative message and a conflict are the same thing. This is not always true. Delivering negative messages is an unavoidable task while conflict can be avoided. Conflict can be a result of a negative message, if the message is not conveyed in the appropriate manner. According to Exforsys Inc. “negative messages don’t have to be considered bad. Negative messages, if expressed correctly could do positive changes in a business (Exforsys, n. p. ). ” When you understand the appropriate way of presenting a negative message, you can make positive changes in business situations.
Negative messages can cause bad feelings in the receiver. As a working adult, you will probably deliver at minimum one negative message a week. Douglas Salerno claims that “Writing negative messages is one of the most difficult tasks facing business communicators. Because we usually find saying ‘no’ as harder than saying ‘yes,’ and because refusing a request often is interpreted by a reader as personal rejection, most writers know enough to approach the task of writing negative messages with some degree of caution (Salerno , 40).”
As the presenter of the negative messages you can reduce bad feelings associated with negative messages with two methods. The situation will help you to choose the best method for delivering a negative message. The direct method for delivering a negative message is used when the bad news is not damaging to the receiver. The indirect method is used when the messages are personally upsetting to the receiver (Guffey, 261).
Components of Negative Messages
According to Mary Ellen Guffey “ the bad feelings associated with disappointing news can generally be reduced if the receiver knows the reasons for the rejection, feels that the news was revealed sensitively, and believes the matter was treated seriously and fairly ( Guffey, 258). ” If you don’t reduce the receiver’s bad feelings there becomes a higher possibility of conflict. This is why it is so important to understand the components of delivering negative messages in an effective way. There are two methods for delivering negative messages effectively: the direct method and the indirect method.
The direct method of delivering negative messages is used when “the bad news is not damaging to the receiver… the receiver may overlook the bad news… directness is preferred by either party… firmness is necessary (Guffey 261). ” This method involves giving the bad news right away followed by reasons for the bad news. When giving the reasons be as specific and clear as possible. Be sure to stay as positive as possible. When you are finished delivering your bad news and presenting your reasons clearly, close politely and professionally on a positive.
The indirect method of conveying negative messages is used when news is personally upsetting, bad news will provoke a hostile reaction, the bad news threatens the customer relationship, or the bad news is unexpected (Guffey 262). ” When delivering negative messages indirectly you start with a buffer followed by your reasoning for the bad news. Your bad news then is followed by a polite, and professional close. A buffer is a neutral but meaningful statement that reduces the shock of pain or bad news. A buffer is used in the indirect method of delivering negative messages.
According to DeKay, there has been research that proves that a buffer may not be the best way to handle a negative but there are not many alternatives to using a buffer (DeKay, 174). As a transition in to your reasons you should next apologize if necessary and convey empathy. “Empathy means accepting another’s feelings, putting yourself in another’s place. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with that person” (Adler 281). Conveying empathy to the receiver softens the bad feelings associated with negative messages.
Next, you present your reasons for the bad news. Be sure to explain your reasons clearly and as specifically as you can. Follow reasons with the bad news and a pleasant close. Legal Liability Because negative messages causing bad feelings, there becomes a possibility of legal liability for you or your company when delivering them. Marry Ellen Guffey explains “…we should be alert to three causes of legal difficulties: abusive language, careless language, and the good-guy syndrome (259). ” Abusive language is basically calling people names.
Legal terms associated with abusive language are; defamation, libel, and slander. In order to be charged with abusive language charges, the abusive language must be; untrue, damaging to the receiver’s reputation, and heard by others or written for others to see. Be cautious when apologizing because you could find yourself in a legal situation. Apologizing admits blame for a wrong and can be taken out of context as evidence of legal liability to a situation. Careless language involves not saying exactly what you mean.
When dealing with careless language you must be careful of the words you choose to use, and make certain the receiver understands exactly what you are saying. The good-guy syndrome occurs when we have to be the “bad guy” and deliver some form of bad news. “To make ourselves look better, to make the receiver feel better, and to maintain good relations, we are tempted to make statements that are legally dangerous” (Guffey 260). Summary In conclusion, negative messages are important, and unavoidable tasks that can be handled in two ways to avoid conflict and make positive changes in business situations.
The direct method presents the bad news first, then reasons, and a polite close. The indirect method starts with a buffer, followed by reasons, the bad news, and finishes with a polite close. When delivering negative messages you need to be conscious of the legal liability risks: abusive language, careless language, and the good-guy syndrome. Also be cautious when giving apologies for they can be used as evidence against you or your company in a legal liability case.