“How to Say It When You Don’t Know What to Say”


“How to Say It When You Don’t Know What to Say”  in challenging situations,  in social or business situations, is most difficult since we are not sure how our words will be construed. We may have the best intentions, and we may weigh our words carefully and still have not said what would have helped the individual cope with the challenge they are facing. We will experience insecurity or fear about approaching someone who is in pain. I heard of people who crossed the street as to avoid confronting, actually comforting, an individual who had a loss.

Robbie Kaplan, in her book; How To Say It When You Don’t Know What to Say, writes about the loss of her baby and delves into the words people said and the discomforts in accepting those words. She wrote this book to exemplify the nuances with which we need to become acquainted. In her case it was dealing with a death of a child. We also deal with deaths, loss of jobs, disappointments, broken promises etc. It is our responsibility, as coworkers, leaders in the community or work environment, friends, aquaintenances, family members, bosses, coaches, etc to do our best to comfort the one who had the loss of one kind or another.

I often write about the need for Leadership Presence: being aware of the situation and the individual with whom we are communicating and having the emotional ability to reach out. Watching for non-verbal clues is a means of communicating as well. Listening is as important as communicating. Sometimes, that is all we need to do to let the individual know we are there for them. “We cannot feel their pain; we do not know what they are going through”. So, saying those words really does not comfort. They could anger the individual since we all experience “life” in different ways. No two losses are felt the same.

Here is a list of some things to do and say when you really have a challenge: (from Kaplan’s book)

To do:

  • Being willing to listen without giving advice
  • Be a support for that person
  • Communicate at a good time
  • Listen with no judgment
  • Write notes, emails, make telephone calls
  • Offer to do specific tasks-don’t ask what you can do: provide an idea.

To say:

  • How very sad I was to hear…
  • I am thinking of you
  • It must be difficult to get through this
  • I am here to listen if you want to talk
  • Take the time you need

Coaches are listeners. We listen so the client can think about how he/she feels and where he/she would like to go with the conversation. Listening takes energy and intention. I recommend



and the references that are made available to give you some guidelines as a boss, leader, community worker, family member, colleague, etc. to know what to say in a challenging situation. When called upon, your actions will be a comfort and allow for healing.

How to Say it When You Don’t Know What to Say

“There is all the difference in the world between having something to say and having to say something.”-John Dewey


Life is a Dance-you need the right music to get in step


Imagine dancing the rumba to swing dance music or the waltz to bosa nova. I’ve tried it and for some creative beings, it might work. But not for me. When we dance, we take in the whole idea of step by step to the rhythm of the music we have decided on using. And then, there are those who would rather sit on the sidelines and observe what others are gracefully, or not so gracefully engaged in.

Life is a dance. We take steps by steps every day of our lives to the beat of what goes on in our heads. And again, some of us sit on the sidelines preferring to disengage for whatever reason. I don’t know if we need talent or if we just need the confidence to know that to miss a step is just a way of telling us that we need to work more diligently the next time. We will need to have the right music, attitude and tools to be the dancer we want to be.

Yes, Life is a Dance: This title came to me during a coaching session when I asked a client to tell me what he thought he could accomplish based on his strengths or talents. “I can, can…. that is a dance.” he said. So from that point we realized that it is more productive to look at the “can, cans” instead of the “can’t, cant’s” and there certainly is no dance for that.





The chatter in our heads can give us two left feet if we do not arrest the negative thinking. To be a better “dancer”, one must consider one’s ability at other things done in the past. Think confidence, think strength in being, think strength in doing. Consider standing tall, looking great, remembering compliments others have given you, and of course your unique qualities.  Become your own advocate. Step by step, beat-by-beat…you will be dancing in no time.

“Life’s a dance you learn as you go

Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow

Don’t worry about what you don’t know.

Life’s a dance you learn as you go”-John Michael Montgomery (Country Music Singer)




Coaching Tip: Get Real- How to be Authentic


“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”

C.G. Jung

In the above quote notice the word, become. When we hear the word, authentic in the above title, we think of being who we really are, being true to our convictions, showing others that we can feel, give of ourselves unconditionally, etc. There are times, however, that exposing our entire story can turn against us. Transparency is a delicate thing. Your story can be so much better with time. How to be authentic: You can become who you truly are by watching the behaviors of others who you admire. It is all about learning to take on a better you. And when you have that knowledge your story will be even a better one.




How to become who you truly are: (How to be authentic)

  • Choose 3 or 4 people you admire for their accomplishments or leadership expertise. Make time to ask some powerful questions that relate to risk taking, challenges, fears, needs, and feelings that move these people forward.
  • Develop questions to ask yourself along the same lines.
  • Compare the answers
  • What did you learn from your selected group that could help you move forward in career or life goals?
  • What do you see in yourself that showed up as barriers to moving forward?
  • Draw a picture of you inside a box. With in the box write all things that make you feel comfortable. Ex: small projects that I know something about. Write about 5 comforts.
  • Draw yourself inside a box, and this time draw arrows outside the box at all things that make you uncomfortable. Ex: Cold calling new client

New concept: Outside the box, where thinking is large, is a freeing experience.  The new concept is: Build your own unique box and create your entrepreneurial spirit of ideas close to you.  This is not a box that limits your thinking; it is focusing your thinking to bring you closer to what you really were meant to be doing.



What can you work on to be the person you can become? Make that stretch and feel the growth potential.  How to be authentic will come to you with experience.

If you trade your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief.”

Brené Brown

Contact: Isabel@uniquepathways.com to get out of the box that is holding you back and Get Real! Become the authentic person you can be.


Trust Me: Developing a Culture of Trust is a Leader’s Responsibility


I recently had the privilege of speaking to the leadership of a woman’s organization. The goal of my ice- breaker was to establish an atmosphere that could be tested for the individual to feel or not to feel a sense of trust with the person with whom they connected. They had three questions to ask of several people: name, how many siblings do you have and discuss briefly the hardest part of growing up. It didn’t take long for all to engage and engage they did. Actually, this was a group of women who said, at the end of the exercise, that they were able to open up freely with one another.

We discussed the purpose of the activity and how a trusting relationship is needed to create a common bond or move toward accomplishing the goals of an organization. Also, “The most important aspect of an individual that will create a lasting presence in an organization ‘s culture is TRUST.”

What you must know, as a leader, is how to affect cohesiveness, commitment, accountability and trust needed to establish a shared, vision, mission and achievement of goals.

What plays into this is the importance of Leadership Presence: As referenced in Leadership Presence by Halpern and Lubar, “Leadership Presence is the ability to connect authentically with the thoughts and feelings of others in order to motivate and inspire them toward a desired outcome.” They use the acronym: PRES to make their point: Presence is being available and flexible, Reaching out, Emotional, compassionate, and Self-knowing (authentic) with strong uncompromising values.

Kristie Hedges, in her book, The Power of Presence, uses the I PresenceÔ model-Intentional, individual and inspirational. These qualities develop the leader’s credibility and power to move the group toward success.

The cultures of organization vary and the members come with their own perceptions and conditioned attitudes. Even in families, we cannot always see eye-to-eye even for the good of the group. We as leaders may notice the inability to move forward and the root cause could be a lack of trust.    

   Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni, uses a triangle model showing that the absence of the foundation being Trust, will cause a fear of Conflict not allowing for a Commitment that is then an avoidance of Accountability leading to inattention to Results. See model below.



Lencioni says the role of the leader is to go first, mine for conflict, force clarity and closure, confront difficult issues and focus on collective outcomes.

The impact of trust, or the confidence in someone to keep a commitment, show integrity and be reliable will create a following and acceptance to move up the triangle to avoid the Five Dysfunctions of a Team so goals can be realized in an effective and efficient manner.

Stephen Covey stated that there are 13 Behaviors of High Trust Leaders Worldwide: These behaviors included demonstrating respect, righting wrongs, clarifying expectations, listening first, keeping commitments and extending trust to name a few.

Assess your behaviors and become that leader who will establish the trust needed to advance your organization.

How Finding Your Passion Can Change Everything

“How Finding Your Passion Can Change Everything”

Ken Robinson, in his book: The Element-How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, makes the reader aware of the lives of famous people who only found happiness in their careers because they had a deep desire and love of something that excited them and they became good at what they loved to do. Being in one’s element constitutes a sense of freedom and authenticity.

The author relates the necessity of being in your Element-that place that you feel aligned with your excitement and have people, your tribe, who find this place inspirational and productive as well.  That excitement is your passion.  Being passionate is inspirational and can propel you into extraordinary places for life’s creativity and innovation.  As stated by John Donovan, chief technology officer at AT&T, “Good leaders inspire their employees to achieve great things.” He feels it is not an individual effort, but a team effort that results in achievement that can be shared by all.

How often do our managers or leaders get to know what our passion is?  What could be the result of being able to pursue our passion on the job?  What is the result for ourselves and the way we operate in the workplace?  *There are methods to employ to really learn about what excites you, what your really love to do can be something you get really proficient at and able to keep you excited about more mundane occurrences.  Passion can drive the desire to excel.  When we recognize our passion, and not all of us are aware of what that is, we can experience a great satisfaction and self satisfaction can be our definition of success.

Please click on the link provided to answer a Passion Questionnaire.  This will help me with a study and make you more aware of the need to think about this subject for yourselves and those you work with.  Your “tribe” may be closer to you than you think. Check out my coaching tip on “How to Find Your Passion”.

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