“I have good news, and I have bad news. Which do you want first?”
How many times has someone said this to you? And which do you choose to hear first? We almost all have a default choice that we have rationalized in our mind. We think, “It’s not just one or the other; I’m getting both, so maybe I should save the best for last. Give me the bad news first. If it’s disappointing, I know I have something better coming.” Or maybe we choose the opposite, thinking, “Tell me the good news first. Let me get that benefit without the other hit. Maybe the good news will be so good, it will overshadow the bad.”
Psychologists tell us that the table tilts depending on whether you are the giver of the news or the receiver. In general, news-givers want to give good news first while news-receivers want the bad news up front. News-givers would rather stay in the positive arena, so they put off the bad. On the other hand, the vast majority of news-receivers have anxiety about the bad news that is coming and are just waiting for the other shoe to drop. They see leading with the “good news” portion as just a delay tactic.
Researchers say the order in which information is communicated has a direct bearing on the outcome especially when an action is necessary. Psychologist Angela M. Legg explains, “It’s so complicated. It’s important to fit the delivery to the outcome goal. If you’re a physician delivering a diagnosis and prognosis that are severe, where there is nothing the patient can do, tell them the bad news first and use positive information to help them accept it. If there are things a patient can do, give them the bad news last and tell them what they can do to get better.”
Although we may have the good news/bad news scenario played out fairly often, we are not receiving dire news every day. Most of the time we live in the general ups and downs of life, so let’s think about how we look at the “good” and the “bad” in our everydays.
The bad news is today is Monday and your favorite restaurant is closed.
The good news is your best friend is available for dinner.
The bad news is your check engine light is on.
The good news is your car is still under warranty.
The bad news is that Christmas night is the earliest all the family members can arrive.
The good news is everyone will be able to come home.
The bad news is your team lost their game last weekend.
The good news is they are still headed to a bowl.
Let’s look again at those four fairly mild scenarios. What if you rearranged each one so that the good news came first?
If your best friend is open for dinner, you’ll just find another great place to go, right?
If your car is still under warranty, the manufacturer will cover any repair cost, so you may be inconvenienced a bit, but you won’t have a large repair bill.
If everyone can be home for Christmas, isn’t it about your family being together more than a date on the calendar?
And if your team is going to a bowl game, they have a winning record and hopefully a positive outlook for next season. Overall, last week’s loss was just a small bump in the road.
If we use the “good” as our viewpoint for the “bad,” it changes our view. This can be done in every area of our life. When we look through the lens of goodness and gratefulness, we move to a completely different space. When we live in the light rather than the shadows, so much more is visible.
When you look through a kaleidoscope, the view is interesting with geometric patterns and colors, but when you turn the kaleidoscope to the light, the colors are iridescent, and the pattern becomes mesmerizing. The colors glow brilliantly because your point of view has changed. The light makes the difference.
Life is the same. In general, it can be interesting and pleasant, but when we look to the light, when we focus on the “good,” when we choose to be grateful, life becomes brilliant.