Dr. Dilips Diamonds Email Newsletter
What readers are saying about Dr. Dilip’s Diamonds:
We were delighted to hear from readers who are putting into practice the insights and tips from the recent series on The Art of the Difficult Conversation.

Venitia Harper
Venitia Harper wrote: “Thanks, Dilip. I read this gem of an installment yesterday and again today… I am motivated to be a better communicator. I learned to stop looking back about what I should have done better. Now I feel equipped to move forward with the goal of making every situation better.”

Thomas Gray
Thomas Gray wrote about a challenge he is facing with getting the cooperation of a supervisor to follow departmental policies: “This supervisor does not want me to give him directions; he feels the he needs to be part of the decision- making process. This is understandable, due to his having being temporarily in the position of Director on multiple occasions. I am trying to give him guidance as suggestions instead of orders. I am aware that the way I communicate directly with him can cause a major impact to my department.”

For their attentive reading of Dr. Dilip’s Diamonds, Venitia Harper and Thomas Gray win a free copy of The Anatomy of Peace by the Arbinger Institute.

How to Deliver Bad News

There are times when we’d rather not communicate … like when a doctor has to tell a patient that she has cancer … when a supervisor has to tell a worker that he’s been laid off … when a fiancée has to break off her engagement. All such difficult communications cannot be solved with a glib formula, but following is a system that works in many such heart breaking situations.

Right to the Point

The above acronym appropriately spells “Heartache.” Let’s examine each step:

Heart– Start the conversation remembering that your “Way of being,” your attitude and approach, can mean the difference between whether that person really hears what you are saying or not. Choose to have a heart at peace towards that person, even though what you have to share is not pleasant.

Right to the Point–You have to address a topic that makes you and the listener uncomfortable. Don’t dance around the topic. Get right to it. If this is difficult for you, remember that a clean cut is usually better than a series of lacerations.

Transaction – Treat the conversation as one transaction, not a step in a process. This approach will make your communication precise and recognize that it has an end point.

Acknowledge– If some responsibility or fault rests with you for the situation, acknowledge it. Your honesty will make it easier for the other person to accept his own responsibility for the situation.

Caring– While you stick to the point and treat the conversation as a single transaction, maintain an attitude of caring.

Helpful– Is there something helpful you or your organization can do for the individual? Is there something that can lessen the sting of the bad news?

End – Once you’ve said what had to be said, bring the conversation to a definite end. This means that you do not schedule a follow up conversation! Walk way from the conversation knowing that you brought closure to the issue.

Here’s an example of applying the “Heartache” approach to breaking up a romance with Percival):
“Percival, give me your hand.” (Squeeze it, silently sending a sense of caring and respect.) “You’ve been good to me and I have cared for you.” (Let go of Percival’s hand). But it’s time to end our relationship. I think you’ve been expecting this. I’m sorry that this will hurt you. I wish there were an easier way to say goodbye, but a clean break will be easier for both of us … so please don’t call me. You have so many good qualities, I’m sure that there is a lucky girl out there who is just right for you. (Pause while maintaining eye contact). Take care, Percival. Good bye.”


Dr. Dilip Abayasekara
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