I’ve never been one to butter people up. I don’t know why. I seem to somehow lack the knack for telling the truth without ticking someone off. So, I was overjoyed when I saw this article on the Fast Company website: “The Better Way to Break Bad News“. Eureka! There was hope for me.

I eagerly dived into the article and started to read. But I hit a snag on the fourth sentence. I was taken off guard, albeit ever so slightly, when I came across this:

The way to talk about even the toughest turns for the worse isn’t simply to put a falsely positive spin on what went wrong and what it means.

Actually, it was only one word, simply, that took me aback. The implication there, of course, is that the way to talk about even the toughest turns for the worse is to definitely and necessarily put a falsely positive spin on what went wrong and what it means — indeed, falsify and spin it for all you’re worth — but not simply that. No. You apparently have to do more than that. Since my curiosity was as piqued as my horror at the suggestion, I decided to give the article the benefit of the doubt and to soldier on.

As is typical of fluff pieces like this, it contained a tidy how-to prescription (this one in four parts) for concealing falsely positive spins in terms that sound a little … well … less falsely positive, I guess. Because I’m nothing if not open-minded (other than modest), and because I hoped to overcome my inability to tell the truth in a way that doesn’t ruffle delicate feathers, I decided to give the prescription a try. In fact, I took it one step farther: I decided to try it on myself.

I deliberately overdrew my checking account. Then, when the nasty-grams and overdraft notices started pouring in, I re-worded them in terms that didn’t make it quite so clear that I was a bonehead, and a flat-broke bonehead at that.

Here are the articles prescriptive steps and how I followed them:

  1. Limit Your Negative Language. The first overdraft notices all said something along the lines of: “Your checking account is seriously overdrawn and you’ve been penalized $3,647 in overdraft charges.” I re-wrote them to say: “Due to what must surely have been a completely uncharacteristic oversight, we’ve added less then $4,000 in administrative fees to your account balance.”
  2. Make Sure It Isn’t Personal. The notices said, “You didn’t deposit funds adequate to cover the expenditures you’ve incurred.” I revised them thusly: “Somehow, money went out but none came back in.”
  3. Spend More Time On The High Ground. The notices also said, “We’re closing your account and suspending your banking privileges immediately.” My revised version said: “Because we’re such magnanimous human beings, we won’t close your account or suspend your banking privileges until tomorrow.”
  4. End On An Upside. Finally, the notices said: “We’ve begun legal proceedings against you for criminally failing to uphold the terms of your banking contract with us.” My more palatable version read: “The young, female marshall who’ll arrive to serve your summons was voted Best Looking and Best Vocalist in her high school class. She’ll, no doubt, present your paperwork mellifluously.”

It worked like a charm.

I wasn’t anxious. I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t even down on myself. Even though I’d just trashed my credit rating and earned a criminal record, I felt light as a feather and happy as a lark.

Now, “The Better Way to Break Bad News” is required reading for the workshops my cellmate, Tiny, and I conduct for the other inmates. It’s called, “The Better Way to Keep From Getting Shivved in the Yard”.

We’re getting rave reviews. But even if we weren’t, we’d be given the bad news in a falsely positive way.

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images, courtesy of pixabay.com.