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Good news and bad news and their psychological effect in a proposal

What are the psychological effects of bad news and good news in a proposal?

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Question asked by devnand_giri

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shantamilan profile image

The psychological effect is a vital part of three arms of a persuasive proposal. A persuasive proposal is comprised of a logical order, psychological order and strong evidence. As such psychological effects of bad and good news should be logically placed in a proposal as it gives a very strong persuasion to your proposal. Arthur Bell and Dayle Smith (2006) explains how skilled proposal writers influence the readers into wanting to agree with their idea by resurrecting their feelings and thoughts. Perfect timing of good news and bad news in the proposal are used to entice these feelings and thoughts. (Bell & Smith, 2006, p. 343) Therefore let us see about the impact of placement of good and bad news.

Placement of Bad news in a proposal

I am sure you have all come across or heard an insurance agents selling policies. They have a rather practical approach to communicating with the use of bad news. Presenting a presumable future where unforeseen circumstance like prolonged sickness or abrupt death, which are bad news, entices thoughts and feelings of panic and need for action to avoid such a mishap. The agents build up these scenarios which presents a need for action on the side of the listener. The same strategy can be used in a proposal. Building up a bad news is in fact a clever way of asking for a solution.

Placement of Good news in a proposal

Not all bad news are accepted in a similar way. In a financial proposal bad news are not always good. So starting with a good news leading to a bad one will give a better position for the writer to defend his actions of why there is a bad news and what can be done.

It is however necessary to be careful with placement of a good news as good news can also be interpreted as a problem. For example, if a proposal says car prices are higher and the proposed design of a new car prototype will be able to tap that market price. The higher management may question if people could afford such high prices. Thus good news should be placed with good timing. Good news should not lead to negative thinking to the reader but come as a beacon of hope and answer to questions.

Thus both good and bad news have strong psychological effect only when they are logically presented. A bad news can be a good news and a good news a bad one depending on the timing and placement of it in the proposal. A writer must therefore, understand who they are delivering this to and plan such news for the highest impact for persuasion.

Bell, A. H., & Smith, D. M. (2006). The Sales and Promotion Letter. In A. H. Bell, & D. M. Smith, Communication Management (pp. 340-344). Delhi: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

ujjwalpoudel profile image

Bell & Smith (2006), in their book Marketing Communication, proposals refer to an arrangement or recommendation, particularly a formal or composed method for correspondence to advance for thought by others. In order the confirm that the proposal is properly understood and accepted by the target, it is very important that the audience is on a right frame of mind to comprehend and accept the information.

Generally, good news motivates people. Good news as mentioned above triggers the optimism, happiness, and hope among people. According to Oliver (2016), good news influences people to take action rather than the negatively put news which will only increase the level of anxiety but contributes little or insignificant effort in influencing action.

On the other hand, bad news generally creates anxiety, internal mental suffering. The research work of (Fiske, 1980) shows that the negative news repeatedly influences the negative attitudes, behaviours and negative impacts rather than the positive news. The proposals, when receive ‘no’ for an answer, it is obvious that this creates some amount of uneasiness in a person mentality.

Let’s talk about the effects of good and bad news in business proposal. As we know that both news have psychological effects on readers. Good news in proposal helps readers to persuade easily than bad news. As many readers prefer to read good news in proposal but that’s not the main part or side of good news, many people at first do not trust that something good at that level could really happen. They look proofs or detailed information for good news. But if the bad news came they will easily accept that. That’s the psychological nature of people. So while presenting good news in proposal, it is important to back up it with proofs and detailed information.

To sum up, what I believe is that we should build the habit of looking into the details and practice to have a control over our emotions. The news might be good or bad, the ventures might succeed or fail, and we might not have a control over the situations all the time. But weather the news is good or bad we must reflect on what went wrong/right and how can we improve it next time. This will helps us cope with the emotional fluctuations. Likewise it is also important to balance the excitement and anxiety to maintain the focus.


Bell, A. H., & Smith, D. (2006). Management Communication . John Wiley and Sons Inc.

Fiske, S. (1980). Attention and weight in person perception: The impact of negative and Extreme Behaviour. Journal of Personality and Social Pshycology, 38 (6), 889-906.

Oliver, L. (2016). And now for the good news: why the media are taking a positive outlook. In theguardian. References theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/01/...

ncitujjwal profile image

Negative event affect us more than positive once (CANCIO, 2015). Because, our brains are higher attuned to negative news. For example, an old man visits his doctor to receive some lab test result and the doctor tells him "I have good news and bad news what would you like to hear first and the old man says, I want to hear the negative news first and then positive news. This example is proven by hundreds of scientist and they confirm our brains is negative bias. So that negative things is always keep in our mind, we never forget this but positive things just keeping our mind for very short period of time. According to researcher we never forget those things i.e. farewell, accident, bad parenting, financial losses. In case of a proposal, as a business leader, I always want to read a good and positive proposal, research and business news which is helpful for me. But our negative bias nature the news is always starting from sad and bad information. Our national daily always wrote oh its front face in trushili, yesterday 5 pm bus accident had happened and 5 people died, 15 are in the hospital. Similarly, we lost the match against India. So our colleague and staffs knowingly and unknowingly make similar mistakes. They starts from negative vibes and then make it positive. So that is not a good way of writing business proposal. According to umes sir business proposal or any writing starts from why, and then how and closed this by what. So this proposal gives complete message. The why, how and what is the popularly known as a golden circle and which was developed by Siman Sineck. According to Tugend (2016) "Some people do not have a more positive outlook, but almost everyone remembers negative things more strongly and in more detail”. For example, when I was kids my mother shared many stories but I have only remembered a terrifying and dangerous story.

Professor Nass (Nass, 2017)"The brain handle positive and negative information in the different hemisphere”. Negative emotion generally involves more things, and the information is proceeding more thoroughly than positive once. For example, when I was in class 9 my school principal punished me because I missed my homework in my home. The same year, we won the volleyball tournament and we got the first prize. But when I recall my childhood, the punishment first comes to my mind the only comes other kinds of stuff. Psychology professor Baumeister (1996) tells that "Bad is stronger than good” As the article of him "Bad emotion, bad parenting, and bad feedback have more impact than good one, bad impression and bad stereotypes are quicker to form more resistant to disconfirmation than good once. For example, the upset felt losing money is always greater than the happiness felt after gaining the same sum (Kahneman, 1983). As a professor (Baumeister, 1996) noted in his study "Many good events can overcome the psychological effects of a bad one. In fact, the authors quote a ratio of five good for every one bad.

Baumeister, R. F. (1996). Bad is stronger than good. Florida University Press .

CANCIO, C. (2015). Do we remember bad times better than good? HowStuffWorks.

Nass, C. (2017). Thing is a general Tendency for Everone. Standford University Press .

Tugend, A. (2016). Praise Is Fleeting, but Brickbats We Recall. The Newyork Time .

dipadhungana profile image

Proposal is one of the forms of persuasive writing. Whenever we write a proposal, we want the readers to read and accept it. For this, the proposal should be made credible through research, qualification, accomplishments, presence, testimonials and recommendations. We want our audience to understand and accept the ideas we are conveying through proposal. But it is not certain that the idea will always come in the form of good news. So we need to carefully plan the placement of good and bad news in a proposal to persuade the readers and make them agree on our ideas (Benchmark Institute, n.d.). The placement of the news is highly dependent on the readers’ perception towards the news and the actions the news will result in.

Bad news refers to the messages that threatens one’s welfare, stability and reputation while good news portrays the possible as well as probable ideas. For a proposal to persuade the readers psychologically, the bad news should be placed as a stepping stone for good news. The bad news can be presented as the problem while the good news comes as the solution of the problem (Bell & Smith, 2006). However, we need to understand that good news get resistance.

Which news to give first: good or bad? is something we ask often when we have to give both the news at similar time. Since human tendency is to pay more attention to the negatives, we can start with bad news to draw their attention and then present the good news to clear the chaos and uncertainties created by the bad news. In general, people prefer to begin with a loss or negative outcome and ultimately end with a gain or positive outcome, rather than the reverse. That is, people tend to prefer improving sequences of events, sequences that increase in positivity or decrease in negativity (Legg & Sweeny, 2013). Presenting good news first may make them happy for a time being but do not support in behavior change. The negative closing may disappoint and demotivate the readers. But the reverse has high chance of eliciting the desired behavior.

For example: If an agent trying to sell insurance policy says all the positive benefits of being insured we may not be interested in the policy. On the contrary, if he starts by telling about the unfortunate events that may occur in our life anytime and present insurance policy as a tool to provide some relief in such circumstances, we are more likely to purchase the policy.


Bell, A. H., & Smith, D. M. (2006). Management Communication. New York: Wiley.

Benchmark Institute. (n.d.). Writing Tasks: Convey Good News and Bad News . Retrieved from Organizational Strategies for Business Letters : benchmarkinstitute.org/wc/ci/writi...

Legg, A. M., & Sweeny, K. (2013, October 13). 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 (3). doi:10.1177/0146167213509113

angel profile image
Angel Paudel

Proposal often refers to an offer in writing presented to a prospective buyer. Best proposals are ones which are written in a way such that the reader will agree with the ideas presented in the proposal to take an action (Faigley, 1986). To do this it is very important to position both good and bad news properly in the proposal to influence the feelings of the reader.

The business proposal includes of a descriptive listing of ideas on what the client needs by identifying the needs of the clients. Thus, it is important to position both good and bad news properly for example, if you start a proposal by saying that you’ve got a very good website which meets all the standards but we can make it better - no one is going to get back to you on the proposal even if it contains all the good news. Similarly, if you structure the proposal in such a way to just demonstrate bad news by saying that we track your purchases on a computer and send notes to inform you of sales item in which you’re interested. As part of this, we’ve listed the products of your interest. Even then, it’s very unlikely you’ll get a call back accepting the proposal as that looks like you’re tracking the individual which looks like a bad practice and something the customer won’t be happy about. Rather framing it in a proper way with both good and bad news mixed something like, "Your website has been hacked and all the data are removed. But don’t worry, we can recover the data and restore your website within a day.” That is something that starts with a bad news (that the company website is hacked and data lost) however there’s a solution as well that the proposal sending company can restore it all within a day. That will prompt the customer to get back to it and increase the chance of proposal being accepted.

We often tend to focus on bad news more so often than good. It gets us fired up and often gets us to take immediate action on the same. Whereas with good news, we’ll feel excited happy about it but if there’s something that we need to act upon, we don’t show the urgency that we often show for bad news. In general writing as well, people always want to hear the bad news first before moving to good so even in a proposal, while starting with a bad news and moving towards good; it’ll get people to read it more attentively while also being influenced towards taking the action (Maynard, 1997). But if we start things off with good news, people are often less interested in the bad news that is to follow or even the good news in the proposal, they often skip through the details and don’t read things in a focused way.


Faigley, L. (1986). Competing Theories of Process: A Critique and a Proposal. College English, 48 (6), 1-16.

Maynard, D. (1997). The News Delivery Sequence: Bad News and Good News in Conversational Interaction. Research On Language & Social Interaction, 30 (2), 93-130.