Bad news is never welcome, and nobody will ever say that they look forward to having bad news. Can bad news ever be avoided or escaped from? Of course not! But, if you change the way you deal with bad news, you will find it easier to cope with it. It might still bother you, but you will be better equipped to handle it.
Imagine: Your house has been burgled. You’ve been fired. Your partner cheated or walked out on you. You’ve been diagnosed with a life-changing condition…
Bad news can leave us in a state of dread and despair. It seems like our whole world is falling apart, almost as if we’re being driven into the ground. We fear the very worst and cannot get it out of our mind, or gut. Often, there are other emotions mangled in, like anger, guilt, despair, betrayal, and love.
Bad news: we’ve all had it, and we’re all going to get it.
So, how best to cope?
I’m going to give you three cognitive strategies that I picked up from the Stoic philosophers—who, in the second century, could count the Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, among their ranks.
All three strategies aim, in one way or another, at generating perspective.
[While reading, hold a recent piece of bad news in the front of your mind, and consider how the strategies might or might not apply to your bad news.]
Here Are 3 Ways You Can Deal With Bad News
Try to frame the bad news, to put it into its proper context. Think about all the good things in your life, including those that have been and those that are yet to come. Remind yourself of all the strengths and resources—the friends, facilities, and faculties—that you can draw upon in your time of need. Imagine how things could be much, much worse—and how they actually are for some people. Your house may have been burgled. Yes, you lost some valuables and it’s all such a huge hassle. But you still have your health, your job, your partner.
Bad things are bound to hit us now and then, and it can only be a matter of time before they hit us again. In many cases, they are just the flip side of the good things that we enjoy. You got burgled because you had a house and valuables. You lost a great relationship because you had one in the first place. In that much, many a bad thing is no more than the removal or reversal of a good one.
2. Negative visualization
Now focus on the bad news itself. What’s the worst that could happen, and is that really all that bad? Now that you’ve dealt with the worst, what’s the best possible outcome? And what’s the most likely outcome?
Imagine that someone is threatening to sue you. The worst possible outcome is that you lose the case and suffer all the entailing cost, stress, and emotional and reputational hurt. Though it’s unlikely, you might even do time in prison (it has happened to some, and a few, like Bertrand Russell and Jeffrey Archer, did rather well out of it). But the most likely outcome is that you reach some sort of out-of-court settlement. And the best possible outcome is that you win the case, or better still, it gets dropped.