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What Are The Right Words?

Updated on June 6, 2012

Finding The Right Words

Everyone has times when they are stuck for words and don't quite know what to say. Times when we are silenced, gobsmacked and even overwhelmed with embarassment because a situation has arisen and we have no idea how to respond. We are left wondering what could have been said.


'The desire for friendship comes quickly, Friendship does not' (Aristotle)

Making new friendships can cause alot of anxiety for some. With the best will in the world there is a huge gap between being friendly and being a friend and that differece can often be confused, leading to misunderstandings and inappropriate things being said. We have all experienced times when someone has asked us for a favour that is perhaps a favour too far. At other times, we have been asked for advice from a friend and we think that if we gave it the friendship would be jeopedised. What do we say?

Types Of Friendships

According to the philosopher Aristotle there are three main types of friendships;

Utility Friendships

These types of frienships are usually the result of doing something together and having shared tasks and projects. A typical example is work. However, in terms of depth they are fragile and if the work situation was removed then the frienships would probably dwindle.

Pleasure Friendships

These friendships are as they suggest and rely on mutual shared pleasure. But just like the utility friendships, once that pleasure looses its appeal then the frienship will also disolve because they often don't go very deep.

Excellent Friendships

Aristotles third kind of friendship is what he calls excellent friendship. This does not suffer from being dependant upon something else. It simply forms through mutual love for another person's character and qualities. Since it does not depend upon something external, but rather on who and what the friends are, it lasts.

If we agree with Aristotle then we can gain insights that have a direct bearing upon what to say and what not to say in certain situations.

Dealing With Difficult Situations

Deep friendships take time to form and cannot be rushed. There are many times I've heard people speak of sudden friendships that become so important to them that nothing else seems to matter. I must say that for me personally, this would make me very wary despite wanting to be glad for that person. I recall moving into a new place and having a holiday booked soon afterwards. I'd only had a few passing words with my neighbours as I was moving belongings in, but suddenly I was inundated with offers to both house sit and cat sit while I was away. This made me very uncomfortable. I was aware that these people were probably just being friendly but I obviously didn't want to hurt their feelings by pointing out that we had only just met and I didn't think it appropriate that they took charge of my home and cat. I knew I had to decline the offer and this was going to be tricky, certainly one of those moments where I had to think very carefully about using the right words!

This was a typical example of a couple who belived they could forge a fiendship very quickly and there are surprisingly alot of similar thinking minds out there. We can therefore appreciate how communication can be made very difficult and awkward at times because of it..


This is probably the time when the majority of people find it difficult to find the right words and are terrified of saying the wrong thing. If a death is expected then somehow it makes it easier to find more to say and for us to feel that it is acceptable to relay our thoughts. However, the greatest gift we can give someone who is mourning is not what we say, but rather to allow them to speak. Of course we must say something but even simple words can enable a person to speak. The bereft must speak in order to mourn.

Relationships ending

Relationships come in all forms ie lovers, friendships, marriages etc. When we hear of a relationship breakdown it can again be very difficult to know what to say especially if a person is deeply upset or broken as a result. Telling someone 'I told you so' even though you may have thought this is certainly not going to help! When a relationship ends, it can be treat initially the same way as a bereavement allowing the person affected space to talk. They may be glad and happy that the relationship has finished but stiil feel bereft. Listening is often the best course of action to take. Although it may seem such a small thing to do and not much help, it can be very draining, especially over a long period of time so never underestimate it!

Work and Life Balance

This can sometimes be a huge issue for many, especially in this day and age where competition in the workplace is at its peak. What do you say when your boss asks you to work those extra hours. You realize that this completely compromises either your immediate plans or your resolute to have a good work-life balance? If it is a 'one off' then we do often oblige even if we have plans and really don't want to work extra. However, if it becomes a regular occurance due to staff shortages etc then how do we handle this delicate situation without feeling our position and job are going to be threatened if we don't agree to work.

Progressive companies may think of their staff as steakholders, and want to please them as much as possible and although there is pressure to stay competitive, they will attempt to keep pressure off staff where possible. There are however companies at the other end of the spectrum who appear to care very little for their workforce, and yet expect undue loyalty from their workers. In this scenario, it would be very easy to refuse to work extra and this could be justified by examples of poor consideration at other times by empoyers. This of course will hopefully be backed up by fellow employees.

Most people understand how their company operates and therefore should respond to such requests according to both their own perspective and that of their employer. None the less no-one should ever feel afraid to voice their own preferences and choices.

These are just a few examples of difficult situations we can find ourselves in wondering what to say. Usually putting good priciples to use will help us in these times;

  • Always have a moral argument for what you say, even if it is not always watertight. People will recognize good intentions.
  • Always act in good faith.
  • Try to be consistent. Don't say one thing and then behave in a totally different way.
  • Never injure others by words for self gain
  • Seek harmony, not discord
  • Always honour good friendships
  • Above all, speaking and acting with integrity is one of the greatest gifts to another person. If you're not able to do this then don't say or do anything at all, afterall what would be the point!

© 2012 cherriquinn


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