Giving bad news can be as stressful for the messenger as it is for the receiver. Here's how you can make the task a little easier.
PRACTICE WHAT YOU WANT TO SAY - in front of a mirror if you can. Don't look as though the world is about to end. Release tension with a few stretches before entering the room.
DON'T SOUND TERRIFIED. Before speaking, take a few slow, deep breaths to expand your chest. This will correct the tendency for people to talk in a high-pitched voice when anxious.
AVOID a long, sweetening preamble. A slow run-in gives time for anxiety to mount. Establish eye contact and after a short background summary, state the facts clearly and concisely.
DON'T DEFEND INITIAL CRITICISM. Give the receiver a few minutes to let off steam. Say: 'you may be right - perhaps we should discuss that later' (note the words 'may' and 'perhaps', and the playing for time).
Gael Lindenfield, author and lecturer.