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

Sometimes you don’t know what to say. What are you supposed to do in moments like that? If you’re like me, you say something anyway. And whatever you say is something you probably shouldn’t have said. I think all of us have put our foot in our mouth at least once or twice before. I’m writing this blog post for me more than anyone else. I’ve been thinking lately about what I should say when I don’t know what to say.


Maybe you’re a pastor and you’ve made a mistake. You hurt someone’s feelings. You turned left when you should’ve turned right.

Maybe you’re a husband or a wife and you wish you could have some of those hurtful words back. You spoke too soon. You spoke too harshly. You didn’t mean it.

Maybe you’re a son or a daughter and you’ve finally realized that your parents aren’t as dumb as you thought. You look back at all the hurtful things you did and said.

Maybe you’re a friend and to be honest, you haven’t really been a very good one. Instead of being there for someone you were nowhere to be found. Instead of helping someone out, you ended up hurting someone unintentionally.

No matter who you are or what you do, you will find yourself in a situation at some point when you just don’t know what to say. Here are a few things you should practice saying so when those moments come you’ll know what to say.

1. I’m sorry. It’s really a short, simple phrase. But for some reason these two words have a hard time rolling off my tongue. If you’ve messed up and you’re not sure what to say, try this: “I’m sorry.” I’m not saying it will make everything better. But it’s a good place to start.

2. It’s my fault. We don’t like accepting blame for our mistakes. In fact, we’ve become experts at shifting blame. We blame other people. We blame God. We blame unfavorable circumstances. We blame our schedule. We blame the weather. But we never take a deep look at the major source of almost all of our problems. It’s you – it’s me. We need to learn to say, “It’s my fault.”

3. I was wrong. I guess you could say that “I was wrong” and “It’s my fault” are cousins. They are very closely related. But, we do such a poor job saying either I thought I should include both. We really don’t like to admit when we’re wrong. We tolerate our own errors much more than we tolerate the errors of others. We rationalize our own sin much more than we do the sins of others. Don’t believe me? Watch what you do the next time you are wrong and you know it. I bet the excuses come out very quickly. Do yourself a favor and practice saying this out loud – “I…was…wrong.” Say it again. We all need the practice.

4. Will you forgive me? Some of us have become experts at saying, “I’m sorry.” But we’ve never learned to say, “Will you forgive me?” When you apologize you let the offended party know that you are accepting blame for what happened. But when you ask for forgiveness you are indicating that it’s important to you that the relationship be restored. Go the extra mile and make sure to ask for forgiveness.

5. I’m praying for you. There are other times when something comes up and it’s not your fault. In fact, it’s nobody’s fault. Those are the times when it’s important to let someone know, “I’m praying for you.” When you walk through tragedy with a friend, sometimes the best thing to do is to let them know you’re praying for them.

Practice these five phrases and maybe next time you won’t be stuck not knowing what to say!