I recently became aware of something that had really never occurred to me: there are times when it is almost as important to break good news gently, carefully, tactfully as it is for bad news.
Item 1: this great post from mimismartypants.
Item 2: my own phone call recently to a hospital department to check on some test results. Doesn’t matter what the test was, everything’s fine so yay, but I had been really worried about the whole thing for a few weeks. So I phone at the designated hour and give my details.
“Yes,” says the very efficient person on the other end, “the results are here and are normal.” Done and dusted.
And you know… that really wasn’t enough. It’s not that I needed any other information. It’s not that I needed cosseting and handholding. But with my head having been full of the “what ifs” for so long, it needed a bit of room to be made to receive the good news. It took a bit of work to make the logical connections: “normal” = good, so it’s a negative result, so I can be happy now? Is that okay? Are you sure?
I thought it was just me being silly, except when I reported the conversation to Armin, and he had much the same reaction as me. “Normal” wasn’t enough. It should be; it’s perfectly clear and unambiguous and logical; but we needed a bit more than that. Armin in fact, because he is Armin, felt quite strongly that Somebody Should Be Told that that’s not how to do things.
I’m not about to go Telling Somebody. But for the record, this, I think, is how it should be done:
“Yes,” says very efficient person, “the results are here and I’m happy to tell you that they are normal.”
Just a few extra words. So simple. But that little emotional cue would make all the difference.
It’s a weird thing to learn.