:Tactical Negotiation: How to deliver bad news

You may be thinking, ” It’s really hard for me to deliver bad news. “. That’s because you are an Empath, and you find yourself in turmoil by feeling others’ disappointments and pain. I understand more than I can say.

“The effect of empathy on the body has been well documented. For example, parents experiencing high levels of empathy towards their children tend to have chronic low-grade inflammation, leading to lower immunity. Also, our heart beats to the same rhythm when we empathize with others. So the impact of empathy when watching the news is both psychological and physiological.”

Psychologists may inadvertently cause you shame and guilt for feeling so much, and tell you other people are not your obligation, and you need to set up boundaries. This may continue to cause you anxiety. The truth is, science is just now truly studying empathy, and the “wisdom of the day” hasn’t quite caught up to be heard in therapy sessions. In fact, I’ve read papers from colleagues to colleagues warning about the harm they can do with this type of advice. You see, they are beginning to understand that psychologists are human beings that bring their own biases, with their good intentions, to therapy… and not everyone is as empathetic as you, and that’s ok. But, not everyone knows how to live with high levels of empathy. Taking their advice can leave you in emotional conflict and shame… and guilt.

I know this because I learned to hide from others and avoid bad news because of the pain I felt for other’s pain…until I learned the purpose of being able to feel so much, and how it is a gift to help people.


“Empathy and compassion are distinct events in the brain…We get entangled in the distress and find it hard to soothe our emotions. We want to depersonalize, become numb, and look away.

The action part of compassion helps us decouple our emotional system from others and see that we are separate individuals.” When we involve ourselves with others by taking action (giving feet to our empathy), we do not have to feel their pain when we witness it. Taking action enacts a part of the brain that alleviates the pain of empathy, shame, and guilt. It refreshes the Empath and neurochemically (re)empowers them.


1) Write down how you feel about having to deliver the news.

For example:
scared, afraid of being yelled at, overwhelmed by how sad the recipient will be

Now, focus on the other person.
2) Write down everything that you feel the recipient will feel.
For example:
angry with you,
want to fire you,
overcome with disbelief

3) Now practice talking in a slow slightly deeper voice. I think of this voice as “putting my infant daughter to sleep voice”. A calming voice calms others. Practice 3, 4, and 5 ( below) in a mirror using this voice.

3) Then, approach the recipient and brace them by saying in your practiced voice:

“I have bad news.”

Pause briefly and then continue letting your empathy lead the way.

4) Articulate your empathy by telling them how you think they will feel about hearing the news. ( NOT how you feel about how they feel, but articulate the pain you feel they will feel- number 2 above.) Tell them all the horrible things they’ll think and feel when they hear it.

For example, say in your practiced voice:
“you will probably be furious at me”;
“When you hear this you will be overwhelmed by disappointment.

Do not be afraid. Your empathy is for good. Saying how you think they will feel will not plant a negative emotion. And if they don’t end up feeling that way, or you are wrong about how they feel, it will be ok.

Tell them everything in your practiced voice that you think they will feel about the news until they indicate they are ready to hear it; they may even tell you to just come out and tell them the bad news.

5) State in your practiced voice, the news with simple, clear, and concise words. Then be silent.

Silence is not a bad thing. Give them time to process and stand by with your compassionate empathy to comfort them, or as the case may call for, to give the solution to the bad news they just received.

The empathy you carry is like a soothing balm when others have to hear bad news.

Empathy undoes shame and guilt. Taking action to help with compassionate empathy undoes the pain in the bearer.