There Is No Good Card for This (2017) teaches readers communication skills for the most difficult situations in life: when tragedy strikes and when we are supposed to console others but don’t know what to say.
- Your kindness is your credential
- Listen more, speak less
- Small things have big impacts when people are under strain
- Don’t be afraid of finding the perfect words: sometimes you can’t do nothing and “I’m sorry” and “how are you” are all you need
Intro: McDowell and Crowed ground their approach in trust. Trusting yourself and your ability to handle it without being scared you’ll destroy everything.
The Three Tenets of Difficult Communication
These are the three tenets to showing up:
- Your kindness is your credential
- Listening speaks volumes
- Small gestures make a big difference
Don’t Worry: You Can’t Make it Better
The author says there is a reason why most people don’t know what to say. In certain situation there are absolutely no words that can make things better.
I find the biggest value of There Is No Good Card for This to be in their examples and fixing wrong expressions for good ones. And that’s exactly the preview I will provide you with this summary.
Don’t Reproach Them:
- Why didn’t you tell me
- I’m so sorry, how are you
Don’t Try to Fix It (too soon):
Trying to fix the issue or to cheer someone up too soon is a common mistake.
- You’re still young, you should try speed-dating!
- I see, I’m sorry to hear that
This is trying to cheer up:
- Oh don’t be such a downer, that guy was an idiot, cheer up! Come out with us
- I’m sorry Helene. Hey, I understand if you don’t feel like, but we are going for a drink tonight. Maybe you wanna join, help you take your mind off?
Avoid the word “should”:
- You should do X
If you must offer help, save their face:
- I have been through something similar before, if you want some pointers on it I am here. But I can imagine you’ve done your research already
Don’t Tell People You Know How They’re Feeling
Telling people you know how they’re feeling is often fake empathy. Don’t rush telling them you know how it is for them, everyone is different and it sounds dismissive jumping to conclusions
- I know how you’re feeling
- When it happened to me it was a difficult time. How are you feeling
Avoid “How Are You” in Obviously Difficult Times
“How are you” is very good on many occasions and too many people shy away from it. But in very hard times it puts people off because it’s obvious they are doing badly.
Mention Similar Stories
If you have stories of friends or about yourself in a similar situation, it can be very helpful to share them.
indeed it makes the person feel more “normal” and less embarrassed for their troubles or mistakes.
However, don’t make it sound like you are trying to give an easy fix or they might feel you’re painting them as dumb for not having realized:
- Who cares what your parents think, everyone gets divorced these days, it’s no big deal
- When I divorced I was surprised my parents understood. But every situation is unique, how come yours are finding it difficult to accept
But Don’t Hijack the Conversation
If you mention similar stories, pay attention not to hijack the conversation
Don’t Pressure to Get in Touch
- I tried to reach you a few times, please let me know everything is alright
- Hey, just sending you a text to say I’m sorry about X. If I can help, let me know. If not, know that my thoughts are with you
Don’t Make Excuses for Being Late
If you are reaching out late don’t make long winded excuses on why you didn’t have time or didn’t know. It makes you sound very self-centered and very little concerned about them.
- Sorry for calling so late, I didn’t it happened or I would called earlier
Avoid Being Judgmental, Surprised or Worried
Making too many questions out of surprise puts people on the defensive instead of helping them. And it sounds judgmental.
- Oh wow I can’t believe it, how did it happen
With this response now your friend feels like she need to justify herself
- Oh wow you guys seemed to be going great how did it happen!
Now not only she has to cope with the bad news, but has to “report” to you all the bad details. Not exactly helpful.
- What about the children!
Sounds super judgmental, and now she needs to “convince you” it will be fine.
Don’t Say Platitudes…
Like for example:
- It’s God’s plan
- You’ll be stronger
Don’t Minimize the Pain
These tell the people that their reaction is “wrong” or their approach to life is wrong. It adds insult to injury:
- Everything will be OK
- Well at least it’s not 90% chance, you gotta stay positive!
Don’t Overblow Encouragement
If you build them up too much you stifle their ability to open up and be vulnerable. For example:
- I have always admired how strong you are, if there is someone who can do it easily, it’s you
- I know you’re a strong woman, but I can imagine this is not easy. How are you doing
It also makes people feel like you are pitying them, like:
- God you are so brave
Which basically says “how can you even put up with it”
Real Life Applications
Don’t Be Afraid of Difficult Situations
Difficult situations and hardships are a part of life. It’s not your duty to make people feel better and often it’s impossible.
Say you’re sorry is sometimes all you can do. And it’s enough.
Offer Help Proactively
When you can, do offer your help proactively. Instead of asking “what I can do for you” say you can do X for them.
Hmmm, no cons really.
Maybe the examples were so good that categorizing them under specific chapters would have made the book even better.
For example, put all the bad example for “fixing the issue too quickly” all together. And then “minimizing the pain” mistakes all in a different chapter.
The Is No Good Card for This spells true wisdom and tells the truth.
I particularly loved the many examples. They were great and abundant.
“There is No Good Card for This” is an awesome book to improve our social skills and to increase even our empathy and emotional intelligence.
I put it in the top 10 of my most underrated books of all times.
You will probably read “There Is No Good Card for This” and think of all the times someone has made these blunders with you.
Or of the times you have done them yourself. Well, you don’t need to keep it that way. With this book, you can fix it!