I’m more comfortable writing than speaking. When you write, you can edit. Reread. Revise. Polish. Take a do-over-mulligan-thingie. And somehow, in the end, find the words.
Yet, I must participate in the world as myself, and ad-lib, speak from the heart, off the cuff. It’s expected. A grown-up skill. Part of the job description called being human.
Sometimes, it’s easy to know what to say. Sometimes not.
In community theatre: say your lines, on cue, with directed inflection. Raise your eyebrows, pause, don’t upstage. Good job.
In a lecture: speak in science terms, often repeat, pause for questions, repeat again. No eyebrows required.
Upon introduction, it is safe to speak in questions. They keep the conversation going, and if you meet a fellow human who has not yet met their daily word quota, you might be on break and get along by just listening. Try these sample questions: What do you do? Where are you from? What’s your dog’s name? What’s that smell?
At weddings, it’s so easy: Congratulations! Then dance and eat cake.
But at a funeral? Just hug. There’s practically nothing appropriate you can say, and all of those platitudes are painfully banal. This is the time and place where mere attendance, proximity, human warmth, and touching are appropriate, necessary, and appreciated. So go ahead and close your mouth. Just hug.