Suggested course level
Lower level undergraduate
- Students will become aware of how their own background influences how they break good and bad news.
- Begin by asking students to stand up (if they are comfortable doing so).
- Their task is to speak to 5 people and break one piece of good news and one piece of bad news to each person.
- Tell students to make up the bad news, which should be something low-stakes (example: we’re having a pop quiz). The good news can be a compliment or a made-up piece of good news (example: everyone got an A on the test).
- Ask students to pay attention to how they delivered each message and what it felt like to deliver each message.
- It often helps to acknowledge that this exercise is awkward and somewhat artificial, but it’s going to help us see how we naturally give good and bad news. It also helps if you participate in the activity and work with students who are shyer or hesitant to get involved. I never force anyone to participate in this activity.
Debrief questions / activities
- What was harder to give: good news or bad news? (Some students will express feeling nervous about giving compliments.) What was harder to receive: good or bad news? (Some students struggle accepting compliments.)
- How did you deliver the good news?
- How did you deliver the bad news?
- What happened to your body language as you broke the good and bad news?
- How did your audience react?
- Did everyone deliver the news in the same way?
- Which ways did you prefer?
- How do you give bad news in your culture or family?
- You can write down different low-stakes bad news or good news scenarios and have students pick them out of a cup/hat.
Tags: oral presentations, oral communications, routine messages, negative news messages, whole class, self-reflection, good news, bad news, intercultural communication, ice breaker