Bad news does not get better over time

This is one of my favorite quotes from a designer I worked with in Minneapolis. Occasionally we would need to tell a client that a project would cost more than the original estimate due to their changes or that we needed more time, or something they wanted was not available. There is a fine art to telling people no or communicating bad news.

Everyone has to deliver bad news from time to time or say no. I always respect people who will notify me without delay when there is something I need to know.

If you need to tell someone no or deliver bad news, remember these keys:

– Tell the person as soon as possible. If you are reluctant to tell her or him, it will get worse over time.

– Be respectful. State your reasons why and be truthful.

– Keep emotions out of it as much as possible. Use facts to support your decision.

– Talk directly to the person who is your primary contact.

– Carefully choose your communication method. In person or phone is preferable. To me, email is not a respectful way to decline if the person who is being notified has a lot at stake or has invested time with you, such as a big proposal or a job interviews. To resign from a volunteer commitment for example, should be communicated by phone or in person. Saying no to a lunch invitation is certainly fine to communicate through email.

The most important thing about saying no is that once you make a decision, you communicate that as soon as possible to the person who needs to know.