What to do when words aren’t enough

It’s not so surprising when you think about it.

It’s no surprise to most of us that in some circumstances, like when you experience loss, words fall short. 

Yet, while we can see this happening, instead of changing our expectations about what words can and can’t do for us, we keep looking for the “right thing to say.”

When words fall short

Recently, I was talking to my sister about her relationship – or rather the one she was pursuing. To my big sister pride, she had declared how she felt, and as many of us fear, the response she got wasn’t exactly what she was hoping for. It was a lukewarm, brush off that diverted the conversation to other things. 


At the end of the talk with my sister as she walked passed me, I said, “I’m sorry.”

And then I thought, “Those are such stupid words to use in this scenario. Why am I sorry? I wasn’t even a character in this situation. There was nothing I did. In Spanish I would have said “Lo siento,” and that’s when the truth about words became clear to me. 

What we’re really trying to do with words: communicate

We use words to try to communicate the ways we feel about the world. 

So many times they fall short. 

And honestly that’s fine. 

We actually shouldn’t expect them to work perfectly all the time. 

But regardless of what we expect from words, we should expect from ourselves that we do what it takes to clearly communicate our message.

In my case, what I was trying to communicate actually made more sense with the words from Spanish which mean, “I feel that.” 

I was trying to say “I’ve felt this way too before, and I know it’s hard and I feel that you are feeling this hard feeling right now. It’s sad, and you will be ok, and I want you to know that I have felt this way too.” 

How to say what you want to say without actually saying anything

Since I know that’s what I am really trying to say, even if “I’m sorry” doesn’t really say that, I can keep trying to communicate my message of solidarity in OTHER WAYS. 

Like make her favorite food for lunch so I can show her that someone does love her and care about what she likes, even if it’s not the person she had hoped right now. 

Or giving her some space and then going back up and asking if she wants to talk more or go to the library and find a good movie to borrow instead so she isn’t alone this Friday night and not wondering why she isn’t on a date. 

But if I just expected my words to be the only way I could communicate that message, I might end up doing something that actually makes the situation worse. 

For example, I could go hang out with my boyfriend because that’s more fun and leave her alone in her room. 

The key is that when you are in a situation when there are no words, your actions can communicate where words can’t. 

While it might feel easier to have a pocket book full of sayings you can pull out at any time that can communicate what you feel in a flash, it’s more important that you commit to keep trying to share, over and over again. Because when words aren’t enough when you keep trying, you are showing that you are here for them with your actions as much as any words could say.

Key Takeaways:

  • Words fall short a lot of the time. That’s fine. What if you started to expect them too? What other ways of communicating would that open up for you? 
  • Because you expect words to fall short, communicating a different way requires you to get clear on what you are actually trying to communicate. 
  • Then when you consider other ways to communicate: focus on what you know will be meaningful to the person you are trying to communicate to – for example: my sister’s favorite lunch is not going to be the same as your favorite lunch. So if I’m cooking for her or cooking for you, I’m going to make something different. And maybe for you, you’d actually rather make your own lunch, but you would LOVE someone to do the dishes (and for my sister she hates cooking but actually doesn’t mind doing the dishes). So maybe for you I help with the dishes and for my sister I make her her favorite lunch. Who are you talking to? What are your typical non-verbal communication styles? See Rory’s post here for more on non-verbal communication. 
  • When you don’t get it right the first time, try again. Because when words aren’t enough when you keep trying, you are showing that you are here for them with your actions as much as any words could say.

Kirsten Schowalter is the author of In My Own Skin and the founder of Aging Courageously.

How to Promote Gender Equality in the Workplace

Contributed article in our business series. Enjoy! – Kimberly

In honor of the recent National Women’s Equality Day, we’re taking a look at how to promote gender equality in the workplace. 

Women have made so many strides in business over the past 50 years: they make up 47% of the workforce and are more likely than their male counterparts to have earned a bachelor’s degree by 29. Companies who invest in gender diversity see big economic returns, as companies who rank high in gender diversity categories are 15% more likely to outperform economic output averages. 

Despite these accomplishments, the global wage gap will still take 108 years to close at the current rate and women in the US earn 79 cents for every dollar earned by a man.

In order for women to be achieve workplace equality, they must be granted equal opportunity, access to top decision-making positions, and equal pay. A recent study revealed that this is closer to reality than ever before: the number of female CEOS of Fortune 500 companies reached an all time high in 2019. Yet this high sees only 33 women leading top companies in the US – that’s just 6.6%. 

For an organization to achieve gender equality, it needs to come from the top. Creating and cultivating an environment where women can work and thrive is a win-win for everyone. Discover 6 lessons from lady bosses and more tips for how your business can achieve gender equality with this visual created by Fundera.

Please click “Continue Reading” to see the entire infographic. Thanks!

Continue reading

How to Ensure Your Company-Based Video Content is Reaching a Broad Audience

Contributed article in our business series. Enjoy! – Kimberly

When you take the time and energy, not to mention investing money in creating video marketing and advertising content for your company, you want to be sure it is reaching as broad an audience as possible. To do that, you need to find the appropriate channels to distribute your video, paying close attention to who the audience is, making sure it fits your key demographics.

So, what happens if you aren’t quite satisfied with your reach, and you’re questioning if you are in fact doing all you can to get your content out there? Here are some tips and advice that will help ensure your video content is reaching the broad audience you hoped for.

Understand It’s Not a One-Size Fits All Approach

One of the biggest mistakes companies can make is to assume video marketing is a one-size-fits-all approach. Continue reading

4 Types of Insurance You Need to Protect Your Business

Contributed article in our business series. Enjoy! – Kimberly

No matter what type of business you’re planning to run, there is a certain amount of risk that comes with having your own company. Even if you put all your effort into getting your business off the ground, there are all sorts of unforeseen circumstances that can arise, making it more important than ever to take out insurance. Whether you’re a small business or large organisation, keeping your company protected is crucial.

With that in mind, here are four types of insurance you should take out in order to ensure your business is protected.

Employers’ Liability Insurance

If you are employing others in your business you are legally required to take out employer’s liability insurance, which will ensure your employees are protected if they have a fall or are injured whilst at work. It’s important that you display your insurance certificate where your staff can view it.Continue reading

Guide to Freelancing (Infographic)

Contributed article in our business series. Enjoy! – Kimberly

Whether you work a full-time job, already or are fresh out of school, it’s likely you’ve considered freelancing at one point or another. It’s a great way to gain a little extra income without too much commitment, and pick up new skills in an area of specialization. If you’re curious about freelancing, or are finding that you freelance client list keeps growing, you may wonder if you should simply freelance full-time.

While going freelance means you can work anytime and anywhere you want, it also means that your income is entirely dependent on the work you’re able to do. You gain more freedom, but you also lose some security. It’s entirely possible that you’ll have some months when you’re barely scraping by, and some months when you can’t seem to keep up. The unpredictable nature of freelancing can take a toll on your health and your finances if you aren’t prepared for the ride.

You’ll need a healthy emergency fund, good client communication skills, and a support system in place to make sure you don’t get bogged down by any setbacks. To find out whether or not you’re ready to freelance full-time, check out this visual by Turbo below:Continue reading

How to Start a Business in the US in 6 Steps

Contributed article in our business series. Enjoy! – Kimberly

Incorporating in the United States can increase the credibility of your business on the international front, and it is invaluable if you’re selling to Americans. It is even possible to open a business in the United States if you aren’t an American citizen, and you may not even need to be a legal resident. This allows people from around the world to take advantage of business structures like the limited liability corporation. Let’s discuss how to start a business in the US in 6 steps.

Choose the Type of Business You Want to Form

There are two main types of business structures open to those who are not U.S. citizens or long-term residents: the LLC and the corporation. An LLC is a limited liability corporation. It limits your liability in case of a lawsuit. The main benefit of an LLC is that it doesn’t pay corporate income taxes; you only have to pay personal income taxes on your share of the revenue from the business.Continue reading

What is the Glass Cliff? (Infographic)

Career advancements often don’t come easily for women, what with facing gender discrimination on the job, struggling with pay inequality, and even dealing with sexual harrassment. If these obstacles were not enough, several female professionals also must confront the reality of the glass ceiling, the notorious barrier to achievement that often holds women back from reaching executive roles in corporations. Still, even for those high-performers that are able to successfully break the glass ceiling and take on top roles, far too many competent women are faced with yet another massive career challenge: the tricky paradox of the glass cliff.Continue reading

When Not to Listen to Your Customer (Infographic)

Contributed article in our business series. Enjoy! – Kimberly

Everybody has heard the old adage that the customer is always right. Nobody can deny the importance of listening and responding to your customers. There’s no better way to build customer relationships and foster trust in your business.

By demonstrating that you hear your customer’s opinions and are willing to address their concerns and feedback, customers will remain loyal to your brand. They are also more willing to refer your business, make a repeat purchase, or leave a positive review.Continue reading

How to Use Inclusive Language in Your Small Business

As a business owner, you know that there are a lot of elements that have to remain in balance in order to ensure business success. Between acquiring clients and keeping your finances in check, things like the culture of your workplace can easily fall by the wayside. Many leaders do not recognize the importance of fostering an empathetic and diverse culture, yet diverse workplaces are 35% more likely to financially outperform homogenous ones. So working on creating an inclusive and supportive workplace is just as important as any other part of running a business.

How can you create a more inclusive workplace culture? A great way to do this is to demonstrate empathy in the way you communicate with your employees. Not only does this mean being understanding and helping them thrive professionally, but this also means understanding that your intentions cannot always be accurately conveyed. Even if you don’t mean to say something that offends someone, it’s still entirely possible to do so. That’s why it is important to educate yourself on the words and phrases that exclude others.Continue reading