Bad news, like telling a partner you want to end the relationship, should never be sugar-coated because it makes it harder to swallow, scientists have discovered.

Although gilding the truth may seem like the kinder approach when breaking a devastating revelation, in fact most people prefer candour.

Researchers at Brigham Young University in Utah gave 145 participants a range of bad-news scenarios with two different deliveries and asked which they preferred. Overwhelmingly they chose directness, reports Daily Telegraph.

"If your house is on fire, you just want to know that and get out," said linguistics professor Alan Manning.

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"Or if you have cancer, you'd just like to know that. You don't want the doctor to talk around it."

When breaking up with a partner scientists found that the direct approach (A) was preferred to beating around the bush (B).

A
You: Good to see you. You look great.

Your date: I have to break up with you. I'm sorry.

You: Oh no. What's going on?

Your date: It's not your fault. I've just come to realize that I'm more interested in someone else now, and I want to make that relationship exclusive.

You: I don't know what to say. I thought you and I were getting along great.

Your date: We've had fun, but I can't help it that I have strong feelings for someone else.

You: I guess not. I'll miss being with you.

Your date: Thanks. I guess I should just go.

B
You: Good to see you. You look great.

Your date: Thanks. You know I've really had a good time with you this past month.

You: I'm glad. I think we get along great.

Your date: We've had fun.

You: I notice you're talking about us in the past tense. Oh no.

Your date: It's not your fault, really. I can't help it if my feelings for you aren't that strong.

You: So you're breaking up with me.

Your date: Yes. I guess I should just go.

However although a buffer in giving bad news is almost always a bad idea, there are cases when it can be valuable said Prof Manning.

For example, when trying to make a persuasive case for someone to change a firmly held opinion, strategic buildup can play an integral role.

"People's belief systems are where they're the most touchy," he said. "So any message that affects their belief system, their ego identity, that's what you've got to buffer."

The research was presented in the journal of the Professional Communications Conference.