Do you want the good news or the bad news?

Although my professional expertise is in the discipline of Marketing, I am also fascinated by the science of Psychology, especially where it impacts on customer behaviour.

I recently came across an article in 'Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin', an American academic journal. It offers some good advice on how to handle giving news to a customer, when part of the news is good, and part of the news is bad.

Researchers at the University of California Riverside in the USA conducted tests on a group of people who were given pieces of good and bad news in different orders. What they discovered was really interesting.

In the research study, the subjects who were given a piece of BAD NEWS first (followed by good news) were more likely to feel better about what they had been told. However, people who were given the GOOD NEWS first (followed by bad news) were found to be more motivated to act upon the news.

So how can this help people in business? 

In any customer service situations, we primarily want our customers to be happy. So therefore it’s usually best to begin by giving your customer any bad news first, followed by the good news. 

But there is an exception to this rule. If you need to persuade your customer to do something, or to carry out an action related to the news, then it's best to start by giving them the good news first.

Let's be honest, it's never a good thing to have to give someone bad news. But at least we now know what order to give the news in.


Legg, AM and Sweeny, K (2014) ‘Do You Want the Good News or the Bad News First? The Nature and Consequences of News Order Preferences’. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 40: 279-288.