137 Good or bad news first?

Based on research by Legg, Angela, & Sweeny, K. (2013), written by Mara Rowcliffe, BS.

Do you want to receive the good news or the bad news first? Does it make a difference if you’re the one delivering the message?

Psychologist Angela Legg evaluated the order preferences for news givers and receivers, and the potential consequences of these preferences.  Participants were randomly designated as either a news recipient or news giver.

Results revealed that the two groups differed. Receivers preferred to hear the bad news first, getting the bad news out of the way. In contrast, the news givers were equally divided between starting with the good or the bad. The news givers who either felt uncomfortable giving bad news first or thought they could better focus on problem solving if they received the bad news last, gave the good news first. However, those thinking how the recipient would feel if hearing the bad news first, ended on a positive note. In fact, those who received the bad news first (as recipients prefer), afterwards worried less but also were less likely to make efforts to change.

When giving good and bad news, consider the person you’re talking to.  For some people you may think it important to reduce their anxiety while others more important to motivate them!

Legg, A. M., & Sweeny, K. (2013). Do You Want the Good News or the Bad News First? The Nature and Consequences of News Order Preferences. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 0146167213509113.
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