Sales and Sales Management Blog

April 1, 2010

Guest Article: “How to Deliver a Difficult Message,” by Marcus A Smith

How to Deliver a Difficult Message
by Marcus A Smith

Delivering difficult messages is a part of life.  For simplicity’s sake difficult will be defined as anything that will create animosity within your audience.  Gut wrenching situations such as engineering a layoff, breaking up a relationship, or denying service to a customer come to mind.  These situations are uncomfortable for all parties involved.

When forced to prepare a difficult message focus on the following things:

  1. Remove Personal Feelings – This is a counter intuitive yet imperative step.  Bad news is best delivered in the absence of emotion.  Emotions always make a situation murky.  If you can not remove your emotions then pass the task to someone who can.
  2. Prepare for Backlash –  There is one certain thing about delivering bad news.  Everyone’s response is DIFFERENT.  That can not be emphasized enough.  Do not make the mistake of assuming that your listener will go on his/her merry way without causing a commotion, asking pointed questions, or otherwise making the situation uncomfortable for you.
  3. Be Very Specific – If you intend to chastise someone or deliver bad news then your ducks need to be in order.  Think about it for a second.  Have you ever received general negative feedback from a boss or relative with no specifics?  If you have then you know how frustrating of a circus this is.  You end up jockeying for position and leaving the situation annoyed and confused.
  4. Stand Firm – Last but not least.  You must stand firm in your message.  Most people’s response to negative feedback (yours truly included) is to defend themselves.  It is truly amazing what a person can remember and conceive when defense mode kicks in.  Be prepared for this and stand firm on the facts.

Hopefully, your use of this article will be scarce.  We all prefer to deliver well received, positive, happy messages.  The ebb and flow of life will often dictate otherwise.  When this occurs heed the advice in this article and come out of the situation relatively unscathed.

Marcus A Smith is a professional speaker and speaking coach.  Visit his website



  1. Paul

    Thanks for posting my article on your website.

    Comment by Marcus A Smith — April 5, 2010 @ 10:54 am | Reply

  2. Always refreshing to hear a rtiaaonl answer.

    Comment by Lidia — January 20, 2012 @ 2:37 pm | Reply

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