Structuring a Difficult Message – Communication Skills

Posted October 1st, 2008

When news is communicated, it helps if there is a structure to the various elements of the news. If we structure the communication in a logical manner, we will ensure that people clearly receive the message and that there is less likelihood of misunderstanding or ‘Chinese whispers’. The order of giving the news is:

Context – What you are going to be talking about
The headline – The heading of the subject matter
The detail – The detail
The reason for the news – What’s caused it
The rationale – What led to the reason, the background behind it
The consequences – What this actually means to the individuals, what will happen
Alternative actions – What, if any, other actions can be taken

For example:


I want to talk to you about the office.

The headline:

The office is closing.

The detail:

The office is closing and merging with the office ten miles away.

The reason for the news:

It will save money by operating out of one office rather than two.

The rationale:

We’ve looked at how the loss of business is affecting us and there are a number of sites around the country where the operation can be combined.
This will save costs by reducing the number of sites we have to maintain.

The consequences:

You will need to consider any additional travelling time and distance. You will need to consider how this will affect your home life. You need to consider whether or not you want to stay with the company.

Alternative actions:

As well as staff being offered the opportunity of moving to the other office, which is being enlarged, there will be options to move to other offices if more convenient. There is also a voluntary redundancy option.

This article was adapted from the training materials for the ‘Communicating Difficult Messages’ workbook, which forms part of the training materials by Trainer Bubble. Visit our website to view this great resource


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