Last week I was honored to give the closing talk at a Sprout event honoring young entrepreneurs. One of the topics in my talk seemed to cause a bit of a stir. It was about my favorite recipe – the Bad News Broodje. Lots of people came and talked to me about it afterwards.

You see, in English, when we have to give bad news, a very effective technique (but definitely not the only one) is to serve it up in a Bad News Sandwich. We use ‘softening’ language to make the impact of the bad news a bit less dramatic.

Here’s the recipe.

You start by saying something positive.
Then you give the bad news, softened with words like ‘Sadly’…’Unfortunately….’, or ‘I’m sorry, but….’.
Then you end on a hopeful or positive note.

That’s it.

Here’s a Broodje in action. Let’s say you have to fire someone. That’s always hard. You can say ‘You’re fired.’ Which makes you sound like an asshole (or Donald Trump…oh, wait…same thing), and will make the person getting the news feel like a loser with a capital L stamped on their forehead. The message comes through loud and clear, but no one feels good about it.

You can also serve it up real nice in a BNB, like this:

‘Thanks for coming in today. I’m sorry, but we are unable to renew your contract at this time. I’d like to thank you for all that you’ve done for our company.”

You started with thanking someone (even if the only nice thing you can think of is ‘Thank you for coming’. That’s still something and it does count in the Being Nice Olympics). After that, you packaged the bad news with ‘I’m sorry’. And it was served with a side salad of ‘at this time’. This means that there might be a chance that they could come back at a later time and try again. (However, if this is not the case, don’t try this at home, as False Hope Sucks.) You ended the dish with a nice slice of optimism, making this person feel appreciated and valued, even if they no longer have a job at your company.

Many people were surprised at the impact a BNB could have. It really can make a big difference when the situation calls for it. As I said before, it’s not the only option, but can be a very effective (and professional!) one to use the next time you have to give bad news.

Try it, and let me know how it goes!

Thanks so much for reading this mail!
I’m terribly sorry, but I have to end it now.
But I promise I’ll be back next week with some more Buffilove!
(And yes, I see what I did there.)

Talk to you zoen!