Charles Starrett

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Culture consultant & social tech teacher/facilitator at SoulCo & Northeastern University. He/Him. Dad, Harvard and NEC alum, visual thinker, dabbler in ukulele, electronic music, 한국어, and TTRPGs.

Thanking the messenger

How do you react to people bringing you bad news? When they let you know about the things that aren’t going well?

It could be a key supplier pulling out of a deal, or losing a major customer, or a product safety problem that requires a recall, or a damaging story hitting the news.

Do you get angry or blow up at the messenger? Or do you shut down and become cold? Or maybe push back and ask them to see it differently, as a “probletunity?”

Or do you say, “Thank you. I needed to know that. Now we can take care of it before things get worse.”

Because isn’t that the truth?

But in the heat of the moment, that’s easier said than done. We’d all rather get good news than bad news. Good news means we can keep going. Good news means we’re doing all the right things. Good news means our future looks bright.

Bad news means the opposite, and worse, that now we need to spend time and energy on an unexpected problem. And that maybe it’s our turn to share the same bad news with someone else.

Yet we all know that bad news is unavoidable. Nothing goes well all the time. So the best thing we can do for ourselves, our business, and the people we live and work with is to grow our capacity to be with bad news. To learn how to hear and accept the bad news as part of living, part of doing business. To practice taking the time to let the initial shock pass, so we can respond from a calmer, more grounded place.

Especially if you want to encourage the people around you to share what they know openly, honestly, and freely.

Because saying that you want to hear bad news doesn’t mean anything if you can’t act like it when it matters.

8 June 2022

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