Salisbury Press

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Respectfully Yours: Say the right thing

Friday, December 14, 2018 by JACQUELYN YOUST Special to The Press in Focus

Dear Jacquelyn,

I recently met up with a friend I haven’t seen in months. We were catching up and she mentioned that she just lost her job. I was at a loss for the right thing to say and said nothing at all. What do you say when someone shares an unhappy life event?

Dear Reader,

Finding the right words when someone is struggling is not easy. We find that words seem trivial and fail us.

This is especially true when we are caught off-guard. We immediately find ourselves searching for the right thing to say.

You simply were not prepared and felt that you needed to say the “right thing” simply because you didn’t want to say the wrong thing.

When a friend is experiencing a rough patch, it’s natural to feel awkward, uncomfortable, and apprehensive. But it’s better to appear awkward than uncaring.

The best you can try to do is say something encouraging, “I’m so sorry to hear that.” Your words don’t have to be something profound and deep to make a difference.

“What can I do to help you” or “If you want to talk, I’m here to listen” show that you care and they are not alone.

Don’t overthink things. Overthinking will get you stuck between options for what to say and nothing will come out.

Please know that it’s not rude or bad manners when you find yourself lacking the perfect words. Being available, lending your ear, and showing compassion are the very essence of good manners.

It’s a blessing to have people in your life that are comfortable enough to share life’s ups and downs without judgment.

Respectfully Yours,


Have a question? Email: Jacquelyn Youst is owner of the Pennsylvania Academy of Protocol. She is on the board of directors of the National Civility Foundation.

All Rights Reserved © 2018 Jacquelyn Youst