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How to share positive news without sounding insensitive during the pandemic

At a time when many people are struggling, you should give extra thought to how and where you share your wins.

How to share positive news without sounding insensitive during the pandemic
[Photo: Retha Ferguson/Pexels]

The unemployment rate is starting to improve and businesses that were shuttered are opening back up, but experts predict a wave of bankruptcies in the third quarter. A lot of people are hurting professionally and financially from the pandemic, but not everyone is failing. Some people haven’t been negatively impacted and are even thriving.

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Sharing wins in a time like this can feel out of touch, but what we need right now is hope, says innovation and leadership consultant Val Wright, author of Rapid Growth, Done Right: Lead, Influence and Innovate for Success.

“It’s understandable the hesitation people have,” she says. “The reality is that not every business is failing. And not every individual is failing. If we don’t share successes when we have them now, it reinforces the narrative that the whole world is suffering and in despair. It creates an endless cycle of doom.”

Tailoring Your Talk

The pandemic has created three realities for people, says Wright:

  • People who are booming and having their best year ever
  • People who are successful but are nervous about the future
  • People who have been significantly impacted

When you talk about your own situation, you need to be aware of your audience. Six months ago, it was easy to have one message for everyone, but today business leaders need to be nuanced in how they communicate to colleagues, employees, and customers, says Wright.

“Press pause before you share a success story,” she says. “Put it through the lens of how the person will react. It’s one thing to be brilliant, but be brilliant at demonstrating your brilliance.”

Determine where the listener is in terms of the economy. Knowing this helps you craft a message that is not insensitive. You’ll need multiple messages to acknowledge what is happening in the world. The way in which you communicate will give people context around your success—an upside for them beyond you simply bragging.

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If you’re talking to someone whose business is booming, such as someone in the technology industry, you can talk about your success, but share how your results come from a special circumstance or new creative point of view. “There’s less caution when the other person is equally booming,” says Wright.

If you’re talking to someone who is still seeing success but is cautious, such as someone who is in retail right now, adjust how and what you share. “Acknowledge that not everyone is having the same success,” says Wright. “This is when you have to be more specific. Note the steps you’ve taken and how someone could take it and replicate the success you have, such as flipping to e-commerce or booking appointments over Zoom.”

If the person has been significantly impacted by the pandemic, such as someone in the hospitality industry, dial down the volume and frequency of your messages, but provide inspiration if you can, says Wright. “People in companies that have been obliterated need hope,” she says. “They also need disruption, and that can take being blunt.”

Secrets of Success

Sharing success stories of people who have turned their businesses around can help. For example, Ryan Choura, owner of Choura Events, saw his business model collapse when the music festivals he served were canceled. He flipped his business model and started providing temporary structuring for hospitals and outdoor dining setups for restaurants.

“Who’s been there, done that?” asks Wright. “How can you inspire someone to be completely different or disruptive? Ryan held an event last week for events people, championing them. He’s a role model who’s figuring out ways to be successful despite the fact that his industry was obliterated.”

Providing hope and positivity may not always land well, admits Wright. “You have to expect the unexpected with how someone might respond,” she says. “If you’re thoughtful in planning and intentional in how you communicate, decide if the feedback you get from people is fair. Then adapt future messages.”

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But don’t stop sharing, says Wright. “You may wonder why you should talk about success right now or even feel guilt, but you need to get over those feelings,” she says. “People want help. Your customers want you to be successful. Your employees want to know the company is doing well. Investors and your board of directors want to hear success. That’s your why. This isn’t about being grandiose, showing ‘Aren’t I brilliant?’ It’s about lifting others up and instilling confidence in the future.”

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