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Dealing with unexpected news in a positive way

Let's train ourselves to deal with unexpected news as positively as possible. Here are some steps you can take to do so.
Published 7 Jan 2022
Updated 9 Nov 2023
4min read

Have you ever been expecting to hear some really exciting news but when the news isn’t what you predicted, your outlook changes, and you respond negatively? Even though this is a natural response, it’s not necessarily the best response we can have.

Reacting in this way makes you feel angry, upset or even depressed. To counter this, we need to train ourselves to deal with unexpected news as positively as possible and here are some steps you can take to do so:

  1. Keep calm
  2. Don’t jump to conclusions
  3. Take time to process the news
  4. Manage your expectations

Keep calm

When we receive news that is of a different tone than we had expected we might react defensively and negatively. We immediately think about how this has impacted us and try to find someone to blame. The effect of this can drastically alter how we perceive a certain situation or even someone we know.

In instances like this, listen to the information that is being delivered to you and stay calm and think objectively. Take a deep breath in, hold for three seconds, exhale for three seconds, and repeat twice more.

This mindfulness technique will alleviate that feeling of being overwhelmed and stressed and will really help you calm down.

Don’t jump to conclusions

What puts us into a negative mindset when receiving news that we weren’t expecting is our preconceived idea of what we think we are going to be dealt with. We assume that we are going to hear what we were hoping to hear, but this isn’t always the case.

As soon as we hear something different from what we are expecting we immediately become frustrated and upset because we didn’t get what we wanted.

When you look at it like this our behaviour is a bit childish, isn’t it? When you hear the news don’t jump to the conclusion that the news is going to be the worst possible outcome for you. Take a step back and process what you’ve heard.

Take time to process the news

Receiving unexpected news can be a shock to the system, and it’s important to take time to process the news. Don’t be too quick to react; you don’t want to behave impulsively and regret what you’ve done once you’ve had time to process it.

Think about what you’ve heard and ensure that you recognise how you’re feeling and do your best to separate these emotions from the news you’ve received. By giving yourself time to process the news, you will allow yourself to think clearly and look at the situation from all possible angles.

Managing your expectations

It is incredibly hard to manage such a situation where the outcome was the opposite of what you had anticipated. One way of managing your expectations is having a critical and objective view of the situation.

In order to do this, you need to remove yourself from negatively influential factors. This includes news programs and current affairs. These platforms tend to paint the news in a biased and negative light.

News platforms then sway your opinion of a subject and will heavily influence how you respond to information related to that topic. Think positively, realistically and be well informed.

If you are looking forward to an upcoming event, gather information from all different sources to prepare yourself for being notified of whether or not the event is still scheduled to proceed.

This will save you feeling disappointed if the event doesn’t go ahead like you had expected as you were prepared with knowledge from a vast breadth of resources.

2020 as an example

A prime example of where it was very commonplace for many people to react negatively to anticipated news was during the COVID-19 lockdowns in Australia—especially in Melbourne.

There would be highly anticipated times during the lockdown where the community would be waiting to hear about what we were and weren’t permitted to do. As lockdown restrictions began to ease people had high hopes that they would be granted more liberties.

However, come the announcement of the changes, there were many people who were disappointed with the changes to lockdown restrictions. These people then expressed their displeasure with the decisions for an extended period of time.

Having poorly managed the way that they dealt with the news they received, they were then faced with a burgeoning feeling of unhappiness.

Using this case study as an example, we are able to reflect upon the ways in which we handle unexpected news. It is easy to think of how news affects us solely rather than how it affects the wider population.

In order to maintain a balanced perspective on upcoming news it’s going to benefit you hugely, in the long run, to keep calm and be patient, take time to process the news, don’t jump to conclusions and manage your expectations.2020 dumpster fire caught in flood

In summary…

Obviously, unexpected news can come in the form of something traumatic such as losing your job or losing a loved one. Not all of the above suggestions will be suitable for those instances but taking time to process the news is the best way to cope with such a situation.

Additionally, surround yourself with people that uplift you and know that there are professional services to help you.

If you are ever worried about your own or someone else’s mental health there is support available in Australia at BeyondBlue, Headspace, Black Dog Institute or call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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