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Her hands were wrapped neatly around the porcelain coffee mug. “I can’t do this anymore,” she said.
Although the restaurant was buzzing with its typical brunch sounds I felt the full weight of silence press upon my chest.
The corners of my lips mechanically curled into a smile. “I understand,” I said.
It was a fake smile. I glanced over her shoulder and looked out the window. The sun was shining.
I wish she’d broken the news after brunch so we could have both avoided the awkward chit-chat, but some people are a little trigger-happy. I shoveled down my omelet without allowing my taste buds to flirt with it. It must have been mediocre.
On my forty minute car ride home I swam in the deep sea of my thoughts. Maybe this isn’t so bad, maybe this is actually good news. Suddenly, all of my Saturdays opened up. There would be more time to work on my business and more time to get to know myself.
I took that Saturday brunch conversation and re-purposed it to strengthen myself. Here are 3 steps I used to re-shape the bad news.
1) Ask yourself “What new opportunities are available because of the bad news?”
Things often seem horrible in the beginning. It’s mostly because the new information is settling in and there’s an air of uncertainty. Maybe the market you’re in is drying up, you lost your biggest client, or there’s a colossal point of failure in the product or service you’re providing.
It definitely sucks, but long-term success isn’t determined by a series of short-term wins. Creating a strong company has a lot to do with dealing with all the bad news. So, if the market is drying up that’s perfect, you get to see how creative you can be and forge a new direction. Lost your biggest client and you just want to cry and eat pie? We’ve all been there, but it’s also a chance to find a bigger client.
I like to look at it as trading one opportunity for another. For instance, I traded fun brunches for hours of research at the coffee shop. One opportunity costs me money and the other makes me money. It’s all a matter of perspective and asking yourself the right questions.
2) Don’t fixate on the problem, obsess about the solution
The news is in, the truck full of toys has been delayed by a massive snowstorm from the north. The shipment won’t arrive at the toy store in time for holiday shoppers! It’s all done. It’s absolutely over. Probably a good idea to fire all the employees and torch the building to collect the insurance payout.
The conference room seems engaged in a chant of “We’re doomed.” Of course, there’s one person who’s not concerned–you! Instead of jumping into the chorus of doom, gloom, and sorrow you’re thinking.
“Well, we could launch a quick ad campaign for the kids. We could tell ‘em that the toys are coming straight from Santa himself and the elves were a little short handed! Then we market it to the parents as a ‘limited time only’ or special edition type product,” you offer to your team of panicked souls.
A heavy hush falls upon the room. They look at you as if you’re some divine creation. “That’s brilliant! We could even push some of our less popular toys as part of the campaign. Kids will love seeing that the elves especially made the toys for them.”
You saved the company AND Christmas. It’s a miracle.
Don’t get swept up in the vortex of negativity that comes with bad news. It will cloud your thinking, thus preventing you from being able to attack the situation appropriately. It’s an ideal time to be creative.
3) Talk about it
After my joyless meal, I stewed. I felt like an anchor dropped into a bone-chilling sea under a moonless sky. I felt alone.
Bad news always punches harder than expected. The important part to remember is to talk about it. This isn’t some cheesy “talk about your feelings” type tip, it’s more than that.
In the course of running a business or starting a large-scale project failure will happen. I guarantee it. Sometimes it’s best to take it in stride. Other times talk about it with your teammates and business partners. Tell them why it seems unexpected. Their fresh perspective could be imperative to hear.
Personally, I have a habit of internalizing bad news. If I take a loss in FX trading or fail to get any sales on Merch by Amazon I attribute the failure to myself. Overwhelmingly that is the case. Occasionally, the market is to blame and it makes no sense. It’s true sometimes business is erratic, things/people get eliminated, and restarting becomes the only option. In those times it’s absolutely dire to communicate with your team and garner any insight.
Talk with your team. Always keep the door open for honest communication. You’ll all grow together from the experience.
Shakespeare once wrote, “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” That means there’s no such thing as “good news” or “bad news.” Everything is about perception. We have the power to determine whether a situation or a piece of information, can harm us. Undoubtedly, we’ll all pick the wrong answer sometimes but in such times it’s necessary to seek out opportunities from the experience, work towards a resolution, and talk about the event in question.