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Podcast 140: Very Special Episode on the Right and Wrong Things to Say.


Update: Elizabeth and I went to Oprah's house! For a gospel brunch! It was an extraordinary sisterly adventure. A few years ago, Elizabeth came with me when I went to Oprah's house to film my Super Soul Sunday interview, so it was especially fun to go back there together.

The party was a celebration of Oprah's new book, The Wisdom of Sundays: Life-Changing Insights from Super Soul Conversations. It's a selection of passages taken from the most meaningful Super Soul conversations, with text paired with beautiful photographs.

As Elizabeth mentioned, if you want to hear Liz Dolan talk about the brunch on the terrific "Satellite Sisters" podcast, that episode is here.

It's very appropriate that our update involves a visit to Oprah, because Oprah is certainly known for knowing just the right thing to say to people in tough situations.

As always, every tenth episode is a Very Special Episode, and in this episode, we talk about the right things to say in challenging situations -- and the wrong things to say.

We didn't have time to talk about it during the episode, but if you're looking for a great guide to the right/wrong things to say, check out Emily McDowell's terrific book There Is No Good Card for This: What to Say and Do When Life Is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to People You Love, as well as her line of empathy cards -- irreverent, unexpected, and heartfelt.

Listeners had many great suggestions, examples, and observations. Some key things we learned:

Saying a simple "I'm so sorry that you going through this..." is very effective.

There's no one right thing to say -- people are different, situations are different. Remind yourself of your purpose as you approach someone. Kindness and warmth are the most important things.

It's not comforting to predict outcomes that simply can't be predicted. "Keep trying, I'm sure you'll get pregnant." "You'll beat this."

It's not helpful to say things that suggest that people are responsible for what happens to them. "Maybe this happened because you're so stressed."

People love to share memories of someone who has died.

When offering to help, be as specific as possible.

For Elizabeth and me, the lesson was: Say something; acknowledge what's someone is going through. Some gesture, some expression, is so welcome. The wrong thing to do is to ignore someone's pain because you're afraid to say the wrong thing.

Here's the post I mentioned, about Jamie's cure: "Today is one of the happiest days of my life."

Elizabeth and Gretchen's Gold Star: A gold star for all the listeners who sent in their examples, illustrations, and suggestions.

Free Resources:

    1. If you'd like to get the collections of wedding readings or funeral readings I mentioned, download the wedding readings PDF here and download the funeral readings PDF here
    1. I do a weekly live show on Facebook called: “Ask Gretchen Rubin Live.”  To join the conversation, check the schedule.

Quote From the Podcast

My friend Corine, she always has smart things to say, her rule is that she only comments on someone's appearance if it's a choice they made that day. So she'll say, "I love your earrings" or "your hair looks great" or "that's great lipstick" or whatever it may be. But she won't say "you've lost weight" or anything that would refer to something that's ongoing.
Gretchen Rubin

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