Do you want the good news or the bad news first? It’s the setup line to a well-worn genre of joke, but it’s no laughing matter. The answer depends on whether you are the giver or receiver of the bad news, and if the information will be used to modify behavior. If you are on the receiving end, experiments showed that an over-whelming majority, more than 75%, wanted the bad news first. If people know they are going to get bad news, they would rather get it over with. Then, if there is good news to follow, you end on a high note.
Conversely, news givers, (between 65 – 70%), chose to give good news first, then the bad news. When news givers go into a conversation, they are anxious. No one enjoys giving bad news. They don’t understand that having to wait for bad news makes the recipient more anxious. But good news first, then bad could be a useful strategy if the goal is to get someone to change a behavior.