If You Have Bad News for Someone, Just Tell It to Them Straight

Image via Youtube
Image via Youtube

A new study from Brigham Young University has concluded that there’s really only one good way to tell someone horrible news: just spill it, directly.

Two professors at BYU and University of South Alabama administered a study in which 145 graduates imagined themselves in two different scenarios while receiving bad news: one in which they were told indirectly (hearing some nice compliments and small talk before learning the truth) and directly (just immediately receiving the bad news.) The situations were moments like experiencing a break-up or being told you have cancer.

The students were then asked which scenario was “least bothersome” and overwhelming preferred the scenarios in which they were told the bad news directly. “If your house is on fire, you just want to know that and get out,” one study author Manning told the Washington Post. “Or if you have cancer, you’d just like to know that. You don’t want the doctor to talk around it.”


Because even those giving the bad advice might want to pad out the info with apologies and explanations, those receiving the advice really just want it immediately:

Pop Culture Reporter, Jezebel

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My wife has a wonderful phrase for this: killing the squirrel.

It dates back to long before we met. She found a squirrel on her doorstep that had been poisoned or suffered some other calamity and was clearly on its way to the great tree in the sky. She called a guy friend to come take care of it. He came over with a shovel, took one glance, and promptly whacked it As hard as he could. She was horrified and cried out in surprise. He looked at her and said, “It was dying. There was nothing we could do for it so the most humane thing was to just put it out of its misery.”

A few months later, the same guy friend was hemming and hawing to my now-wife about needing to break up with his girlfriend. He knew the relationship needed to end, but wanted to let her down easy over time.

She interrupted his moaning and said, “No. You need to end it now. Kill the squirrel, John. Kill. The. Squirrel.”

Best advice I’ve ever heard applicable to all areas of my life (but hope I’m never on the receiving end from her!).