Hear Ye, Hear Ye, I’ve Got Some Good News…And Bad News!

“I have some good news as well as some bad news, what do you want to know first?” How many of you instantly feel a mixture of curiosity and dread when you’re asked this question? I definitely do. I mean, how do I choose? Either I have to choose to be happy first and then disappointed or the other way around. I don’t know what’s worse! Ugh. Conflicts.

Types of Conflicts:

The problem of having to choose between good news and bad news is a type of conflict which is labelled as an approach-avoidance conflict. Similarly there are other types of conflicts that we face on a daily basis!

  • Approach-Avoidance Conflict: I would like to approach the good news because it’s desirable whereas run far away from the bad news because it’s just going to disappoint me.
  • Approach-Approach Conflict: The best kind of conflict, because it’s nothing but a win-win situation. Should our next trip be to France or Italy? Should I have pizza or pasta for dinner? I got two great job opportunities, which one should I pick?
  • Avoidance-Avoidance Conflict: Have you ever felt like you’ve been caught between a rock and a hard place? This is that type of conflict and it’s the absolute worst. Say you have a toothache, but at the same time the dentist frightens you- you’re trying to avoid both right? Now what?
  • Double Approach-Avoidance Conflict: This type of conflict is by far the most confusing. I’ll explain why. Pretend you have gotten two job offers and you are weighing the pros and cons of both. Job A pays extremely well, but the work environment is really hostile, whereas Job B pays decent enough, not as much as Job A, but the work environment is extremely healthy. You’re stuck. Do you choose the pay over the environment or vice versa?

Usually these conflicts can be easily resolved by making a list of pros and cons. Since the approach-avoidance conflict we see ourselves in with our news situation involves information that we need to know either way, the pros and cons that we would weigh in this scenario would be about which emotions will affect us for the long run depending on the choice we make.

I came across a research by Legg and Sweeny in which the findings proved that majority of the news-recipients preferred to hear the bad news first. The recipients provided explanations of how they would like to safeguard their emotions and mental state by getting the bad news out of the way and end the note with positivity. Ending up with a more happier, more positive mindset could in turn prove useful in motivating them to deal with the bad news with less worry and panic.

The more I think about this, the more it makes sense. If listening to the good news second is going to alleviate the tension and stress, resulting in a more calm and steady thought process, then maybe we should always opt for the bad news first, no matter what. Just for our sakes. After all, save the best for last, right?

Until next time,


(MA Clinical Psychology, PGD Counselling)

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