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Reacting to Bad News

Updated on September 8, 2014

9 Ways to React to Bad News

When bad news on television overwhelms us, our instincts tell us to shut it off quickly. I know many people who will evade the topic if their friends shower them with bad news.

Blaming them for this reaction is difficult. We want to avoid anything that sounds or seems remotely negative.

Avoidance, however, has its drawbacks. We need awareness of how we respond to friends who tell us about bad news that affects them, or to unpleasant news that, unfortunately, makes up the bulk of our prime time TV menus.


Why Do We Shun Bad News?

1. It prompts us to take unwanted action.

2. Bad news is graphic.

3. It causes unpleasant emotions.

4. You may not empathize

A. Why people Avoid Negative News

Unpleasant news, of course, leaves an unpleasant, cloying taste in our mouths.

It prompts us to take unwanted action. We have to do what we dislike. No one enjoys having to solve daunting problems, or the awkward moments that happen when we have to condole friends.

It is sometimes graphic and, therefore, paralyzing. Bad news causes unpleasant emotions that none of us want to acknowledge.

Negative information is hard to react to because we may not empathize with the situation. We may not know how to react instantly the to news that a friend has cancer, or has lost a job.

Instinct tells us to evade the news as quickly as possible. We want to avoid the cloying negativity that comes with it.


Avoiding bad news is dangerous because....

1. It weakens resistance.

2. It builds complacency.

3. It builds fear.

I would avoid bad news because....

See results

B. The Danger of Avoiding Tough News

Avoid it, though, we cannot. We should not disregard such news but instead, learn to deal with it in the best way possible.

Avoidance weakens our resistance. As we sweep bad news under the rug, our capacity for it weakens. We become less able to control ourselves or our emotions.

It then builds fear. Fear of receiving bad news is seldom healthy, for it is a given. There are times, like it or not, when we will receive it.


We defend ourselves from bad news by..

1. Build positivity.

2. Have willingness to learn.

3. Have a sense of humor.

4. Realize that change is constant.

C. Buildiing Resilence To Tough News

The key to dealing with tough news is to build our resilience to it. It goes without saying that it takes time and effort.

Positivity must be built. Everyone tells us to embrace the positive, but this is only done over time. We do so by surrounding ourselves with positive company and taking the time to hone a positive imagination.

Apart from trying to build a positive attitude, we must have the willingness to learn. The function of failure is to teach; the less resistant we are to it, the greater ability we have to overcome it. The more we learn from out errors, the more tools we have to overcome negative circumstances.

And then, a good sense of humor is essential. Laughter releases necessary endorphins and helps bonding. It relieves the stress of negativity.

We must also accept the constancy of change, no matter how difficult it is. Change is bad news in itself, because it means making tough decisions and taking unwanted action to push ourselves forward. Yet, we must have contingencies handy,

no matter how distasteful it is.


How should we react to bad news?

1. Thank people for the data.

2. Do not hide your upset.

3. Be direct, yet tactful.

4. Do not pry unnecessa

D. How to React to Bad News

Reacting to bad news is a little, gracious art that involves a little tact. We can definitely respond to bad news a little more positively.

1. Thank people for the data.

This is definitely the hardest to do, but we have to first thank the bearer of the bad news, especially if it is of a professional nature.

By doing this we put a positive spin on the news. We show our graciousness and strange as this may seem, makes it a wee bit more palatable.

2. Do not hide your upset.

Being gracious about the bad news does not mean that you are any less upset.

Hiding that you are upset is virtually impossible, so do not try. Allow all parties to absorb the shock of the news.

3. Be direct, yet tactful.

If you are the bearer of bad news, be direct, yet tactful. Couching bad news just prolongs it and makes it worse.

4. Do not pry unnecessarily.

Moreover, do not pry unnecessarily. Asking too many questions is intrusive and adds unnecessary pressure. It may also come across as unempathetic, though your intentions are otherwise.


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    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      6 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Congratulations for HOTD!

      Very nice hub and I liked your perspective on this topic.

      Bad news is of course not pleasant, but they do happen. I feel very bad and concerned and just wish this passes soon. Voted up!

    • kevin adera profile image


      6 years ago from Nairobi

      whichever way you take it bad news is bad news, whether you are giving or receiving it. For me i find giving bad news the hardest assignment.

      My principle is simple, bad news is bad news at the end of the day,you can't sugar coat it.

    • Jo Harley profile image

      Joleen Friesen 

      6 years ago from Alberta Canada

      I'd rather be hurt with the truth than with a lie.

      I grew up dealing with extreme situations especially extreme negative situations. I enjoyed the challenge of keeping my life positive while dealing with the negativity. I've also been there bearer of bad news. It's much easier when I had a healthy relationship with the person receiving it.

      I get restless when I don't have a challenge. I voted it up and shared it. Thanks for writing it!

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 

      6 years ago from New Zealand

      Congratulations for HOTD.

      It is true we can't escape from bad new all the time, but I'm an person that would sooner not hear it as I dream alot and things I see and hear come back to me in my dreams and the end result is usually far worse than the bad news. So I avoid it if possible.

    • DaphneDL profile image

      Daphne D. Lewis 

      6 years ago from Saint Albans, West Virginia

      Unfortunately, bad news is part of life and the world in which we live. While never wishing to hear bad news, it is only in knowing what is happening that we can ever begin to deal with and live with whatever that may be. Your reactions to bad news were perfect!

    • Kiss andTales profile image

      Kiss andTales 

      6 years ago


    • poetryman6969 profile image


      6 years ago

      Yeah when I hear bad news I grow a beard and put on a bad wig.

    • Artois52 profile image


      6 years ago from England

      News is news, and it has to be told. The trick is, not to let the bad news get you down, just learn from it.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      6 years ago from Florida

      Congrats on HOTD! If I hear local bad news about someone I know, I feel sadness and empathy for the person involved. I try not to listen to the news on TV because there is nothing I can do about that, and I don't need the stress. Just the news about the terror in France stressed me out!

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 

      6 years ago from Chicago Area

      Congrats on Hub of the Day and Happy New Year! Hope your new year is filled with happy news stories. :)

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      Congrats on your HOTD. As times indicate there seems to be more bad news than good news and tips on handling it are certainly useful. A sense of humor can always help us through just about any situation. Well done as always Michelle.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • Harishprasad profile image

      Harish Mamgain 

      6 years ago from New Delhi , India

      Congrats on HOTD and I feel that this hub greatly deserved it. There are good news and bad news. The ones that affect us personally have more significance than the rest, and we all deal with them in an appropriate manner and to the extent of our discretion and wisdom.

      Those bad news that do not have any direct bearing on us, our reactions are different. We either ignore them altogether or empathize with the persons affected by such bad happenings. It all depends upon our mental built -up that is responsible for a particular reaction.

      This is a thought provoking and an in-depth analysis of the way people react to bad news, and certainly we can learn a great deal from this hub. voted up.

    • mySuccess8 profile image


      6 years ago

      Maintaining good human relationships, whether at home, at work, or anywhere else, requires, among others, compassion, trust, and the ability to think into the other person’s shoes. This includes how one reacts to bad news, as you have explained very well in this Hub, taking into consideration no two persons are alike, and accommodating the differences. A lot can be learned from this Hub. Congrats on Hub of the Day!

    • Kiss andTales profile image

      Kiss andTales 

      6 years ago

      Great informative hub!

      True we should not make it a sport of bearing bad News!

      But I think there is more bad News then good ,the scales prove that everyday on the News ,or radio!

      Me I do no go searching for bad News because you will find it ! But I do control how much I allow my mind to handle,and I filter out ,so as to keep a balance that this will be a thing of the past think positive for the future.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Aviannovice. I wish they'd put more good things on the news as well. It'd make our day.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Dealing with bad new that relates both indirectly and directly to your own life is one thing, but it's pretty much all you hear on the news. It would be nice to put more good things in there, too. Nicely done!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      And so it shouldn't indeed!

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      6 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      I take bad news and react calmly. I don't allow anything to get me down. Avoiding bad news is not an option. Interesting hub from you.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      True!!! Thanks for sharing, Sandra!

    • Sandra Eastman profile image

      Sandra Joy Eastman 

      6 years ago from Robbinsdale MN

      I think it's worse to give bad news than receive it. We never know how people will react like in your video :-)

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, DealforaLiving aLiving!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Yes, it gets better with time. Bill.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Brite Ideas!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      That's very true, Rasma. We need to know what's going on, yet know not to be immersed in it.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I've had my share of devastating news. Does it get easier with time? I don't think easier, but we do learn to handle it better.

    • DealForALiving profile image

      Nick Deal 

      6 years ago from Earth

      I do my best to avoid being in situations where I hear bad news because I just find it so demoralizing. I have a limited capacity and want to focus at least 99% on good news.

    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 

      6 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      I used to be a terrible news junkie (I mean, I was on top of current events by the second l0l) - I still like to stay informed, but I only get the news of the day quickly and that's it goes! - Enjoyed your article

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 

      6 years ago from Daytona Beach, Florida

      Voted up and interesting. Great hub. About the bad news from one point we do need to know if the world is going to explode well you know what I mean and second it's much safer to ignore but then when it all comes to a head we wonder what we missed. Passing this on.

    • m abdullah javed profile image

      muhammad abdullah javed 

      6 years ago

      that's true. thank you.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Javed. We should, indeed, be unprejudiced when we view the news.

    • m abdullah javed profile image

      muhammad abdullah javed 

      6 years ago

      Excellent and informative. Thanks. As a continuation to your profound discussion I would like to share my views.

      Actually bad news should be define first as some bad news may be common to all but a particular bad news may be perceived as good by some "other".

      Secondly a society as a whole should react to the bad news, with an unbiased approach a difference can be made apparent on the air.

      the media should educate the people through its constructive role and objectively and analytically broadcast news and views, if anything that falls against these parameters should be dealt in a serious manner.

      Lastly in today's advanced era the media plays a pivotal role in shaping the mindset of the people, mass awareness and building up of opinion is possible with both print and electronic media, if a bad news appear, one should have a critical analysis as to how it affects the public psyche and how far it hampers the mutual co-operation of the people dwelling in the society. How far it is affecting the societal development.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      How do you react when you give or receive bad news?


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