How to Find the Right Words by The School of Life

We laugh, we recognize our troubles - and we're introduced to a range of deeply empathetic ways to navigate some of our most acute social dilemmas

How to Find the Right Words contains twenty case studies explaining how to deliver a range of life's most awkward messages while causing minimal harm. 

This book will guide you in relationships, friendships, work, and family, as well as those strange encounters that we all experience. 

For me, it was a simple reminder that I have the agency, maturity, and responsibility to bring things to an end, rather than leaving things unsaid. That in itself is much more comforting than the agonizing anxiety that keeps me up at night, thinking about the conversations that I know I need to have but that I just don't want to have. 



I'm so squeamish at the very thought of even approaching the topics that scare me, often preparing for days, sweating for hours beforehand, predicting the outcome, that I completely lose the words and whatever I say comes out like complete and utter word vomit. These days with Zoom, behind the scenes it's a nightmare; a gallon of water on one side, vape on the other, cat or dog on my lap. I've probably been to the bathroom 15 times in the past hour. I don't know why, but it's literally like I don't know how to find the right words.

The section 'Do you want to be friends with me?' is especially helpful, and I found myself sharing nuggets of information with friends of mine who have expressed difficulty in making friends here in Vancouver. Some of the prompts I found invaluable. An opener like "I really liked what you were saying at the end of the evening - and I'm wondering if you could maybe give me a bit of advice; I'm keen to get past a certain mental block I have."

Don't have a mental block? Make one up, and make a friend while you're at it. Seriously though, this is a good way to get a phone number, and take a one night meeting to a coffee the following day.


What I thought

This is a little nugget of a book at just 96 pages. It can be read on a commute to and from the office in one day. It may be small, but it's bursting with useful information.

I was really excited to read this one actually since I find it hard to find the right words most of the time.

How to Find the Right Words is great in that it actually gives specific prompts in dealing with very specific situations. Although the situations are specific, e.g. the "I just want us to be friends" scenario. Although that's not a situation I need to approach in my life right now, the prompts within that section can be applied to other parts of my life. 



Simply saying to someone "Forgive me for bringing this up..." sets a soothing and calming tone for a conversation. Especially in a work environment, where we're overworked and exhausted, and there's often pent-up stress. Using a prompt like this is way better than unleashing the angry beast, letting everything pour out of you, and having the person on the receiving end be like "WTF?!" 

The more I read, the more I related to the book. I liked that each piece of advice is cropped into snippets of 2-3 pages each, with a few prompts per dilemma, which makes it easy for the reader to locate in distress. However, I recommend reading the entire book, despite what the exact struggle is.

The Work chapter and 'I've Screwed Up' section in particular really spoke to me. Those are chapters that I'll return to again and again. 

One of the prompts in there is "If I can be frank for a moment, there's a lot going on at home which means I might not have been in the best frame of mind."

Before I might have been ashamed to say something like that, but now not so much. As How to Find the Right Words states, "we too often enter the workplace with the punishing idea that to be a good employee means being an emotionless automaton, and therefore that having to admit to emotional disruptions is tantamount to declaring oneself unemployable. But our terror stems from a misunderstanding".



This is a book for everybody. We have all found ourselves in situations where we just cannot find the right words. We've been in relationships, wondering whether our loved ones still love us, wondering whether our friends still want to be our friends anymore. We've all screwed up at work at least once if not a million times, and we sure as heck have all had some really weird encounters with strangers. 

But how do we find the right words to deal with those situations? 

Picking up this book is a good place to start.

How to Find the Right Words is available for pre-order at Indigo and on Kobo. Check GoodReads for other retailers. The hard copy is releasing October, 19th. 


The School of Life is a global organization helping people lead more fulfilling lives. It’s a resource for helping us understand ourselves, for improving our relationships, our careers and our social lives - as well as for helping us calm and get more out of our leisure hours. We do this through films, workshops, books, and gifts - and provide a warm and supportive community. You can find us online, in stores, and in welcoming spaces around the globe. 

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