Storytelling : Good News and Bad News, Which One First?

I have written about telling a negative story first and then telling a positive story to motivate change.

The simple rationale behind this order of information is

Negative Story, gets attention. So, tell it first. After you have managed to get attention, you must tell a positive story to motivate the action you desire. I use this order of information in Change Storytelling all the time.

You can watch a short video of me conveying the same message here

Earlier this week I was reading about Daniel Pink’s new book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing and stumbled upon an interesting fact. I was fascinated to learn that the order of information, Negative First and Positive Second also works in delivery of news.

Social psychologists Angela Legg and Kate Sweeny conducted a research on whether to give good news first or bad news first? They looked at how the order that the information is delivered might change how people feel about the news.

You can read the summary of the research here.

The key finding was, Bad News First. 

The most interesting observation for me in this research was that as a news giver we perhaps feel like giving good news first because it provides a padding before the jolt. However, news recievers prefer to get the bad news first because they prefer elevated endings.

If we followed a basic principle of putting ourselves in our audience’s shoes we would agree that we prefer to bad news before good. Isn’t it ? When I am a news receiver and I am asked bad news or good news which one first? I would always say, bad first.

This may not work in every situation and contextual understanding of the situation as always is very important.

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