Rands In Repose asks an interesting question:
I want you to think of the last time you were surprised. Good, bad, I don’t care. When was the last time you were really surprised? Got it? Ok, now think about the very first thing that you thought about the surprise. I don’t want to know how you eventually handled it; I want you to think about your instantaneous first reaction.
In the context of corporate bad news delivered in a group setting, he personifies the various immediate reactions with characters such as Dr. No, Raging Bull, the Handler, we’re Doomed, etc. He’s careful to note, in a “follow up” for each character, that these initial reactions to surprise are not necessarily the subsequent way the individuals actually handle the situation, merely how they begin to assimilate it: ” … I know this knee jerk reaction is not who they are, this is just how they react. Understanding these varied potential reactions is just the first part of digesting a surprise – it helps you understand what to expect so you [a manager] can begin to figure out what to do next.”