Book Title
M: Business Communication 3rd Edition

978-0073403229 Chapter 6 Text Summary, Lecture Outline

April 5, 2019
Teaching Suggestions
The teaching techniques for this chapter are the same as for the preceding chapter.
Text Summary, Lecture Outline
Slides 6-1, 6-2, 6-3
When introducing this chapter, you can ask your students to give examples of times when a business
writer might need to give unwelcome news. Help them see that this is a very common situation—and
that the advice in this chapter will be very helpful.
Slides 6-4, 6-5
When the main message is bad news, you should usually write in the indirect order.
Such messages are likely to be received more positively when an explanation precedes the bad news. An
explanation may even convince the reader that the writer is cleared of fault. It can also serve to cushion
the shock of the bad news. But you may be justi&ed in using directness in certain cases:
when it is in the readers best interest to convey the negative news right away and to encourage
them to act on the news,
when the negative news will be accepted routinely,
or when you think the reader will appreciate frankness.
The General Indirect Plan
Slide 6-6
Begin with a strategic bu)er. Use it to introduce your strategy to overcome the readers resistance. It
might be an explanation, a review of justifying facts—whatever you think will work. You might also
acknowledge any preceding messages in your opening.
Then develop the strategy—continue what the beginning set up. Make your case in such a way that the
reader will see your point and consider it reasonable—perhaps even in his or her best interest.
Then present the negative. It should be the logical outcome of the preceding strategy, and it should be
worded as positively as the situation permits.
When possible (which is o.en), offer a compromise or alternative solution. When you say no or
announce negative news, you’ve le. your reader with a problem. Help him/her solve it to the best of
your ability.
End on a positive note, shi.ing the focus to happier things—just as you would do at the end of a
face-to-face meeting.
Slide 6-7
Highlight the important elements of the strategic bu)er in bad-news messages.
Good strategic bu)ers . . .
Are neutral or positive
Acknowledge the situation
Put the reader in the best position to accept the news
Are careful not to raise hopes
Ask students to think of opening lines that have helped them or could help them to receive bad news.
Slide 6-8
When delivering bad news, the &rst thought is o.en to apologize. This slide outlines when apologies are
useful and when they may not be.
If the writer is at fault, the apology should be made early in the message as part of the explanation. Then
the writer should move on. No apology should reappear at the end of the message.
If the writer is not directly at fault, an apology can make it seem otherwise. An apology can also be seen
as an admission of guilt and can have legal implications. When in doubt, a writer should consult a
supervisor or legal advisor before sending a message of apology.
Refused Requests
Slide 6-9
In these situations, someone has asked you for something, and you must refuse—a very common
business situation.
Such messages are almost always negative, although they vary in degree of negativity. Usually in such
messages you have two goals:
1. to refuse, and
2. to maintain goodwill.
Before you write anything, you should think through the situation and work out a strategy—that is, how
you will explain or justify your decision.
Perhaps you must refuse because of company policy. In this case, it is advisable to justify the policy
rather than to just say it is company policy to refuse.
Probably you will refuse because the facts of the case justify refusing. When this is the case, you can
review the facts and appeal to fair play.
And there can be other reasons. In all cases, study the facts and work out as convincing an explanation
as you can.
Slide 6-10
With your strategy developed, you next put it into message form.
Begin indirectly with words that meet these requirements:
1. They clearly indicate that you are responding to the request.
2. They are neutral—that is, they do not imply yes or no.
3. They set up the strategy you have devised.
For example, if you are responding to a request for permission to use a company’s grounds for a political
fundraiser and you must say no, you might begin: “We are honored by your request for permission to
hold your important event on our grounds. Our landscapers have worked hard to create a place that
adds beauty to the community, and we are happy to host community events whenever possible.
These words are about the subject of the request, so they obviously indicate an answer to the request.
They do not give away the answer. And they set up the strategy (that the company can host community
events only when they are not a>liated with a particular political or religious cause).
The reasoning set up by the opening follows. You present your reasoning as convincingly as you can,
taking care to avoid unnecessary negative wording and to use the you-viewpoint.
A.er you have presented your case, you refuse. Take care to use no unnecessary negatives, making this
part as positive as the situation permits. Avoid harsh words such as “I refuse,” “will not,” and “cannot.
Timeworn apologies such as “I deeply regret” or “I am sorry to say” emphasize the negative and can
sound insincere.
Avoid giving the refusal undue emphasis—by position, space, or wording.
A compromise can o.en be used to so.en the refusal and build goodwill. When this is possible, take
advantage of it. For example: “The best we can do . . .”; “Have you considered . . .”; “You might want to . .
.”; “May I suggest that you . . .”; or other ways that direct your reader toward at least a partial solution to
his/her problem.
Good closing talk is something pleasant that does not dwell on the refusal. What you choose to use will
depend on the facts of the case. But select something that &ts the situation—something you might say if
you were face to face with the reader.
Avoid the timeworn negative apologies: “I sincerely regret that we have had to refuse . . . .” Equally bad
are the timeworn appeals to understanding: “I sincerely hope that you understand why we must make
this decision.
Slides 6-11, 6-12
Use the sample messages on these slides to show how the preceding guidelines have been applied (or
not) in this situation.
Encourage the students to critique the two examples in light of the guidelines given for refusal messages.
Indirect Claims
Slide 6-13
When something goes wrong in business relations, one party may [email protected] to correct the ma@er by
making a claim against the other.
The claim may be made in person, by telephone, or by [email protected]en message. As the text says, it may also be
direct or indirect, depending on the situation. And even when it is indirect, it states the problem early in
the message.
When you are making a routine claim—such as informing a mail-order company that they sent the
wrong number of ink cartridges—you do not have to do much strategizing. This is one of those mistakes
that sometimes happens, and the company will probably be happy to correct it once you bring it to their
[email protected]tion. A quick phone call o.en takes care of such situations.
But in cases where the solution is not so clear cut, you will need to be more strategic and persuasive. You
will also need to take care to control your tone so as not to undermine your request.
Slide 6-14
State early in the message that there is a problem—but word this statement as neutrally as possible.
When appropriate, reference the invoice number, order number, or date of transaction.
One possible way to do so is in a subject line like this one: “Subject: Breakage of glassware shipped
under invoice No. L1308.” Your opening paragraph can then add further speci&cs.
In the body of the message, present your case as persuasively but unemotionally as you can. Explain
clearly what went wrong.
Present the evidence. You may want to interpret the error in terms of its e)ect: “The Fanuc robot that
we purchased last January 17 has broken down, resulting in the stoppage of one of our assembly lines.
Be tacFul, don’t assume or imply distrust, and resist the temptation to display anger.
A.er making the claim, move to the adjustment request. Either say what action you want or let the
reader choose the appropriate action.
End with words that state or imply your desire to continue relations with the reader. For example: “We
would appreciate your immediate replacement of this unit so that we can resume production.” (Avoid
such rubber stamps as “Thanking you in advance . . . .”)
Slides 6-15, 6-16, 6-17, 6-18
Use these examples of a claim to reinforce these concepts. Have your students critique and assess each
example in light of the guidelines for writing an indirect claim.
Have students point out the speci&c wording that creates a negative or emotional tone in the bad
example of a claim [email protected]er. Students can brainstorm ways in which the [email protected]er could be improved.
Then review the good example, discussing the strategy used for each part. Highlight these points:
Neutral beginning using passive construction (“we were charged”)
Presentation of case and reference to evidence without emotion
Clear request for adjustment
Positive ending that focuses on future
Adjustment Refusals
Slide 6-19
Messages that refuse claims carry bad news. Like other bad-news messages, they are usually handled
with indirectness.
Probably, the reader believes he or she is right and that you are wrong, although some know their claims
are weak.
A good beginning step in working on the letter is to decide how to explain your decision. Your decision
should be based on the facts of the case; a.er all, you have good reasons on your side. (If you do not,
then you have a very di>cult message to write indeed—and should reconsider the refusal, if possible.)
So you review the facts, and you determine the explanation that will be most likely to convince the
reader that right is on your side.
Slide 6-20
As in other refusals, the opening should 1) be on subject, 2) be neutral, and 3) set up the explanation.
Because you are answering a message (the claim), you should refer to this message, either incidentally
(“As described in your April 7 letter”) or in a subject line (“Subject: Your August 2 [email protected]er about Order
The subject [email protected]er of the opening can be almost anything that sets up a review of the facts of the case.
It could be a point on which you and the reader can agree: “You are correct in believing that a two-ton
Deep Kold window unit should cool the ordinary three-room apartment.” The sentence makes contact
on a common point and sets up the reasoning (the apartment in question is not an ordinary three-room
The opening set-up could be a statement showing concern for the readers well-being. “Assisting young
couples to enjoy beautifully decorated homes at budget prices is one of our most satisfying goals. We do
all we reasonably can to reach it.
From this opening sentence the writer will shi. smoothly to proving that making the adjustment goes
beyond what can reasonably be expected.
The explanation that was set up by the opening logically follows. This explanation should be convincing.
This means that it should be believable, and to be believable, it should be based on fact. It should show
clearly that right is on your side.
Use your best writing skills in presenting your reasoning. This means avoiding unnecessary negatives and
emphasizing the positive. It also means writing nothing that questions the readers honesty or
intelligence—nothing insulting. (“If you had read the contract you would have known that…”).
Your explanation should lead to and set up the refusal. So a.er explaining, refuse. Refuse positively—yet
clearly. To make sure it is positive, study the e)ects of your words. Avoid unnecessary negatives. If the
situation justi&es it, consider a compromise.
To make sure your refusal is clear, use words that leave no doubt. Example: “For these reasons, you will
understand why we can pay only when our employees pack the goods.” Or “Although the contract clearly
ended our responsibility on May 1, we will do whatever we can to help repair the equipment. Or “In
view of these facts, the best we can do is repair the equipment at cost.
End with a pleasant comment. Avoid referring unnecessarily to the refusal. Even well-intended apologies
are negative here.
A good general topic is some more agreeable aspect of customer relations—new products, services, uses
of the product, industry news, and the like. Almost any friendly comment that appears logical in this case
will do.
Slides 6-21, 6-22, 6-23, 6-24
Have your students critique the sample messages supplied in slides 6-21 and 6-22.
Some points they could consider regarding the bad example:
Beginning starts with an exaggerated apology
Language places blame on reader and can create a defensive reaction
Unnecessary emphasis on the negative: “we are not able to,couldn’t possibly,” “no one,” and
“no further
Ending with another apology, rubber stamp phrasing, and insincere sentiment
Slide 8-21 o)ers a comical representation of a company refusing an adjustment. You could consider using
this as a point of discussion to brainstorm situations in which an adjustment can’t be made. How would
they handle these situations? How have they handled situations in which they were the party being
refused? What made the di)erence as to whether they felt negatively or positively about the company
Its useful to think of both sides of the message when composing an adjustment refusal.
Then have students assess the good example in slide 8-22. Note particularly the skillful wording of the
refusal itself—not “. . . we cannot grant you a refund on your paneling” but “. . . we must consider the
sale &nal.
Negative Announcements
Slide 6-25
Sometimes businesses have to announce bad news to their customers and employees—for example, a
price increase, a reduction in employee bene&ts, the closing of a store.
As with the negative messages previously discussed, the writer begins by searching for a strategy.
Slide 6-26
Negative announcements follow the general construction of other bad-news messages. Due to the
nature of the content that such announcements commonly carry, the main goals of the negative
announcement are to 1) present the bad news as accurately and positively as possible and 2) leave
readers feeling that the writer has carefully considered their interests.
In these instances, the writer begins by thinking “What can be said that will cushion the shock of the bad
The beginning should set up the justi&cation of the announcement and ease the reader into the
discovery of the bad news. This can be done with a cordial statement that focuses on the relationship of
the writer to the reader(s) or a set-up of the justifying information to follow.
The background reasons for and explanation of the news should be o)ered next, using the techniques
for positive e)ect. Take care to cover all the necessary details. Anticipate the readers’ questions and
answer them. If the bad news creates problems, try to help solve them.
The negative news should be presented as positively as the situation justi&es. But it must be crystal clear.
As in the other negative messages, the words must be carefully chosen.
O.en change is a part of negative announcements. Use this message to assure your readers of positive
elements that are remaining in place, to call [email protected]tion to potential bene&ts that may result from the
changes, and to help resolve any problems that come from the changes.
End on a note that a>rms the good relationship between you and your readers and perhaps looks ahead
to something positive.
Slides 6-27, 6-28, 6-29
These slides present a simple bad and good example that illustrate the recommended strategy.
Have your students critique and assess each part of the messages. Before showing them the good
example, let the students come up with ways to improve the bad example. Highlight the need for:
A more positive, neutral bu)er
Reduction of negative language and increase of positive e)ect techniques
Change of tone so as not to insult the reader
Stronger, more positive and friendly closing
Slides 6-30, 6-31, 6-32
Directness may be appropriate in some cases—for example, if the news is expected, if the news is only
mildly negative, or if it is already known through leaks of information.
Even so, exercise care in word selection. Present the information positively and clearly. Students can
come up with their own examples of direct negative announcements before viewing slides 8-30 and
8-31. Then discuss the samples provided in light of the guidelines for writing direct messages.
A possible follow-up exercise for Negative Announcements: Have the class watch the Managers Hot Seat
video “Change: More Pain than Gain?” and discuss/assess the managers e)ectiveness when dealing
with the negative fallout from an acquisition.
Slide 6-33
The point of this quote, of course, is that one should never write business messages in anger. When
tackling a negative situation, writers need to let their initial feelings [email protected]
In addition to leNng anger pass, this can also mean leNng any initial negativity about the situation pass.
The best bad-news messages are those [email protected]n out of con&dence and a positive approach (with the glass
being viewed as half full rather than half empty). Perhaps the best advice of all is to get oneself in the
right frame of mind before writing such a message—even if that means purging the bad mood &rst with
a message that one would never send!