First of all, Pace is fine. This is only an example.
The phone rings. I answer, and it’s Pace. “I’ve been in an accident; another car hit me.”
Though she must be at least okay to be able to call me, my heart’s in my throat and I can barely breathe. An eternity passes before the next sentence: “I’m okay, and the car is damaged but okay,” and until I hear it, I’m completely stopped. Even after she says it, I’m tied up in my William James zone and unable to function well for a while.
Compare this with:
The phone rings. I answer, and it’s Pace. This time, she says, “I’m totally okay and I love you. However, I got in a car accident…”
Now, I’m upset and concerned, but that heart pounding, nerve-wracking fear has tempered. I know she’s okay. She can take her time and tell me about the accident and we can solve any problems, all while I know she’s okay. I’m in a much better place to hear her and help.
Prefacing bad news or scary news with reassurance is like the famous spoonful of sugar. It helps our minds and bodies function with stress much better, and gives us solid ground to stand on while things start falling apart.
We refer to this as “the rule of bad news”. Any time you have bad or unhappy news you have to deliver, remembering to start off with something positive will help both you and the one you’re telling.