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Negative messages are those that deliver bad news. Negative messages may be delivered internally within an organization or externally from an organization to a customer or from a customer to an organization. When delivering negative messages it is critical to foresee how the message will effect the recipient: the employees, the customer, or the organization.
There are two basic modes of negative message: the direct negative message and the indirect negative message. Direct and indirect negative messages differ in tone and in introductory material.
Direct Negative Message: A direct negative message has an authoritarian tone. It may be a stern tone or even a reprimanding tone. In a direct negative message, the bad news is introductory thus delivered first, and it is delivered without any introductory attempt to soften the negativity. The direct approach is used when the negative news in unequivocal and unnegotiable.
Indirect Negative Message: An indirect negative message has a conciliatory tone or a sympathetic tone or, at worst, a subdued stern tone. A reprimand may be included, but the reprimand will be couched in language that acknowledges the inevitability of unintended difficulties and that refrains from assigning blame (or undue blame). In an indirect negative message, which is used in most correspondence of a negative (bad news) nature, states the circumstances and the reasons for the bad news as the introductory material; it prepares the reader in the introductory comments for the negative message that is to come in an attempt to develop clear understanding, a mutual sympathetic attitude, common civility and courtesy, and to begin the process of reaching agreement and acceptance. The indirect approach puts the reader's--and the sender's--dignity and humanity and assumed good will and good intentions in front of the delivery of the negative message.
Sample Direct Negative Message:
I am shocked to learn of the embezzlement at your institution and am closing my account forthwith as of the date of this correspondence and require all records and funds to be returned to me immediately at the earliest possible date.
Sample Indirect Negative Message:
I have always been pleased by the personal attention and courtesy I have met with at your institution and count my experiences with your instructors among the most enriching of my life. I'm certain the the new Financial Director is extremely well qualified and capable of doing an excellent job in his new duties. Unfortunately, since he has taken over the finance department, I have been surprised to learn that a mistake he made has been attributed to me which has caused me some embarrassment and some difficulty that I cannot extract myself from without your help. The circumstances follow, and I respectfully submit them for your consideration.
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