A Spoonful of Sugar

A Spoonful of Sugar

            In the classic movie Mary Poppins, there is a delightful song in which we are told that “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” That can be applied to real life today.

            Once I finish writing this article, I have the unpleasant task of advising two clients on two separate matters that a bitter pill must be swallowed. The first one pertains to signing a contract for which my client is now stuck. For the second one, I have to tell a client that his doctor completed a form in such a way as to seriously impair his future disability benefits. Neither conversation is going to be pleasant, but they have to be done.

            If you find yourself in the same unenviable position, here are some things you can do to use that “spoonful of sugar.” First, gather the information, then take action. If you have bad news you need to deliver, do it as quickly as possible in a polite and professional way. Position the news accurately but in the most positive context you can. I’m not suggesting you deliver the news in a laughing manner that makes the recipient think you aren’t taking the situation seriously. Rather, you need to say what needs to be said in a friendly, caring manner, while making sure they still understand the seriousness of the message.

            Whenever possible, try to find some good news that can go with the bad news. The good news for one client is that we have other medical alternatives we can discuss that will hopefully give us a path forward to making his unpleasant situation as temporary as possible. For the client who signed the contract they are now being forced to live up to despite its one-sided terms, the good news is that it’s a relatively inexpensive fix in the grand scheme of things, and, if handled correctly, they will be able to make sure no one else in their nationwide circle of friends ever does business with a particular audio-visual recording company in Florida.

            Sometimes you have to self-administer the spoonful of sugar when you are the one facing the bitter news. I’m not recommending denial or delusion; just sober, realistic thinking and planning. Whether you are viewing a property a tenant has vandalized, or have a rehab project that has grown out of control, or you’re dealing with a party in a contract who seems impossible to work with, make sure you fully assess the situation and find a bright spot (which may simply be that you’ll never have to go through that experience again!) while swallowing the bitter pill.