What do you say when you don’t know what to say?
So much of influence is sold as having the right words, at the right time.
Words that get the outcome you want. Words that match your intention – words that result in exactly how you want the other party to feel.
Words that, hopefully, support everyone in reaching a better outcome.
And that’s definitely a big part of it.
However, where that doesn’t help, is in those situations where there are no words.
Or at least not good ones.
Where even trying to find the right words, feels like an insult to the magnitude of what’s happening.
Recently I’ve found myself in quite frankly, too many of those moments.
Moments of navigating sickness, loss and grief. Where not only can nothing I say make it any better – but everything I can think of to say, feels at the same time irrelevant, small and just plain useless.
However, ironically, those are the moments we need to show up the most.
So what do you say when words aren’t enough?
My guest today is someone whose work I have returned to time and time again – in moments of life where the complexity of ‘what’ I want to say far outstrips my ability to articulate it.
One of my favourite parts of this podcast is bringing you guests whose work I genuinely share with the people closest in my world.
Emily McDowell is for sure one of those.
Emily McDowell is a writer, illustrator, speaker, teacher, entrepreneur, founder and creative director of Em & Friends. A company she began after her own cancer diagnosis, when it became clear that most sympathy cards don’t reflect the relationships and complex emotions people REALLY have. The ones that are messy, beautiful, tricky, conflicting, and a whole bunch of everything in between.
In 2015, Emily was named one of Slate’s 10 Designers Who are Changing the World. In her own words she uses her unique breed of insight, design and humor to bring words to some of the most complicated moments of our life.
Her first book, ‘There Is No Good Card For This: What To Say and Do When Life Gets Scary, Awful, and Unfair To People You Love’, co-authored with Dr. Kelsey Crowe, should be required reading for anyone in relationship with another human being.
More than anything else Emily embodies the phrase: ‘Showing up when it’s hard’.
- What to say when you don’t know what to say – and the power of truly showing up for someone in their darkest of times.
- Why greeting cards aren’t designed for actual humans – or human emotions – and what led her from a cancer diagnosis to creating the phenomenon that became Em and Friends.
- How to sit between ‘what was’ and ‘what’s next’ – a process she’s deep in the middle of right now. Plus the difference between thinking your way out and feeling your way through. Especially if thinking is all you know how to do.
- Why she recently quit social media (despite a following in the hundreds of thousands). Including the conflict we both feel about the impact social media has on the world, and our contribution as people who use it to share their ideas.
References and links mentioned
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