What Can I Say?

A Kid's Guide to Super-Useful Social Skills to Help You Get Along and Express Yourself; Speak Up, Speak Out, Talk about Hard Things, and Be a Good Friend


By Catherine Newman

Formats and Prices




$22.95 CAD



  1. Trade Paperback $16.95 $22.95 CAD
  2. ebook $11.99 $15.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around May 24, 2022. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Middle school is an essential time to learn and practice social skills, including how to get along with others, talk about hard things, be an ally, and a good friend. In What Can I Say?,Catherine Newman, author of the bestseller How to Be a Person, provides supportive guidance and instruction to help kids establish or and maintain meaningful relationships and effective communication with friends, teachers, family members, and others in their communities. Talking the talk can be tricky, and every page of this super-useful book provides easy, accessible scripts and guidance on the right thing to say in all kinds of situations, from how to be inclusive, listen, give advice, argue, stick up for yourself, and ask for help to how to turn down a date, express sympathy, deal with offensive comments, respond to bullying, and be trustworthy. Humorous, graphic-style illustrations that play our familiar scenarios reenforce Newman's friendly, non-judgmental tone and her commitment to helping kids develop the skills to express themselves clearly while showing empathy, care, and generosity towards others.


For my kids and my kids' friends and my friends' kids and my nieces and nephews and niblings, and for all the kids everywhere who have shown me what it means to communicate lovingly, gracefully, hilariously, courageously, and with beautiful, authentic awkwardness.


For all the kids who struggle (like I did) to speak up for themselves and others.



Praise for What Can I Say?

How To Be Your Best Self: The Basics

Chapter 1: How to Meet, Greet & Part

How to Greet Someone

How to Introduce Yourself

How to Introduce Other People

How to Put Someone at Ease

How to Say Goodbye

Chapter 2: How to Have a Conversation

How to Express Curiosity

How to Listen

How to Make Small Talk

How to Give and Receive a Compliment

Chapter 3: How to Get Along with People

How to Compromise

How to Give Someone the Benefit of the Doubt

How to Be Wrong

How to Be Right

How to Argue

How to Persuade Someone

How to Be Grateful

Chapter 4: How to Deal with Hard Things

How to Be Embarrassed

How to Apologize

How to Forgive

How to Be Angry

How to Say No

How to Ask for Help

How to Shut Down Gossip

How to Let a Friend Go

How to Step Back from a Friendship

Chapter 5: How to Be in a Romantic Relationship (or Not)

How to Know if You Have a Crush on Someone

How to Ask Someone Out

How to Go on a Date

How to Deal with Being Awkward

How to Break Up with Someone

How to Get Your Heart Broken

How to Not be in a Romantic Relationship

Chapter 6: How to Be Supportive

How to Show Your Appreciation

How to Express Empathy

How to Be Supportive when Someone Confides in You

How to Comfort Someone

How to Be Inclusive

How to stick up for someone

How to Give Advice

Chapter 7: How to Be An Ally

How to Be Courageous

How to Educate Yourself

How to Disrupt Prejudice

How to Respond to an Offensive Joke

How to Talk about Pronouns

How to Be Trustworthy

Chapter 8: How to Care for Your Community

How to Be a Good Neighbor

How to Volunteer

How to Be an Activist

How to Make a Protest Sign

How to Change the World

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Here's what people are saying about How To Be A Person

Share Your Experience!

How to Be Your Best Self The Basics

This is a book about how to talk to the other people in your life (you can probably figure out how to talk to yourself on your own) because our relationships are what give our lives meaning! Relationships with our friends and family, for sure, but also with our neighbors and teachers, our teammates and classmates, our fellow citizens and crushes and pets. Okay, you already know what to say to your pets—"Sit" and "Stay" and "Who's a good boy?" and "Which one of you ate my underpants?" But that still leaves the humans: What do you say to them? And how? And, also, when?

It depends on the situation, of course! And this book tries to cover a lot of different situations: easier conversations and harder ones; in- person talking and the kind you might do over text or email. Other people's ways of being in the world can be so confusing.

But you already have the tools you need—empathy, curiosity, and care—to learn the skills you need to connect with other people, just like you've learned the skills of making a sandwich or cutting a heart out of a folded piece of paper. Skills that might take practice, sure, but that you can master over time so you can live happily and well in the world of people.

But why?

Learning how to be more kind, gracious, expressive, compassionate, responsible, respectful, and authentic in your interactions is going to make the world a better place, filled with happier people. Plus, it's going to help you in a million ways: Your friends might adore you more, your parents might agree to more stuff, your peers might be more likely to respect your opinions, your teachers might give you the benefit of the doubt, and maybe even strangers will fall all over themselves to help you.

Even if you experience conflicts and disappointments in your relationships sometimes (and you will), you'll know how to handle them better. If how you're acting and interacting feels right, so will everything else. Plus, as one of my own kids once said,

"You're never going to be lying on your deathbed wishing you'd been a bigger jerk."

There's not a single right way to be, though. You might be an introvert or an extrovert, shy, outgoing, or really just more into your pets than you are into people. "Normal" is not a thing, and everyone doesn't have to be the same kind of person.

You might even have extra challenges when it comes to interacting with other people. You might be on the autism spectrum, say, or experience social anxiety that makes small talk feel like you're waiting in line for a roller coaster you never even said you wanted to ride. That's fine. You can just be how you are—skipping what seems impossible for now but putting a mental or actual bookmark there in case anything changes and you feel that you'd like to try it out.

It's also okay to be noisy (or silent), to cry, to say no, to disturb people when you need to, to express yourself in a way that's different from how other people express themselves. Doing and saying the right thing is not always about smoothing the rough edges, conforming to norms, or making everybody's life easier.

Justice, for example, has never come about from people sitting politely with their pinky fingers extended away from their teacups chatting mildly about the weather. Will you make mistakes in your relationships and interactions? Of course! Will you learn from them? You will.

What matters most is that you try to be your best self and balance other people's needs with your own. What matters is that, more often than not, the question you ask out loud or in your own head is "What can I do here to help?" What matters is that you've spoken your truth and have also been respectful of other people's selves, of their intrinsic worth as human beings. It's a lot to ask, but we're asking it.

All of Us


  • "A primer for tweens on healthy communication and boundaries, how to be an ally, how to care for your community — basically, as Newman spells out in her introduction, “how to talk to the other people in your life.” Newman’s writing is kind and inclusive. Fong’s art is friendly and funny, depicting a diverse cast of young characters (of different races, genders, abilities) as they negotiate various social scenarios." — The New York Times Book Review

    “One of the most important things adults can teach children is the skill of communication and self-advocacy. What Can I Say? can not only teach children to be more confident, eloquent, and clear, it can save them from harm and give them the tools and courage they need to ask for help. I cannot recommend this book enough to anyone engaged in raising competent, proactive kids with a strong sense of self-efficacy.” ­ — Jessica Lahey, author of The Gift of Failure and The Addiction Inoculation

    "Newman is out with another totally gorgeous guide for kids about how to succeed in the world. This time, it’s real-talk on the awkward and hard task of behaving appropriately around other humans, told with the humor and nuance of a hip babysitter. This book is to GenZ what Free To Be You And Me was to GenX. You’ll find yourself wishing you’d had it years ago!" — Julie Lythcott-Haims, New York Times bestselling author of How to Raise an Adult and Your Turn

    "What a glorious book. What Can I Say? is much-needed in this era of increased social awkwardness and conflict. Catherine Newman and illustrator Debbie Fong have created a delightfully illustrated, inclusive guide to help kids evaluate their behavior, tune into their feelings, and figure out how to start a conversation, be a good listener, and interact in simple and emotionally charged situations, with kids and adults, and in person or digitally. If I had this book as a young person, I no doubt would have handled countless relationships in a more loving and compassionate manner." — Christine Koh, co-author of Minimalist Parenting and co-host of the EditYour Life podcast

    "Catherine Newman is my go-to for etiquette advice, both for me and my kids, who are 4 and 11. She has the touch: compassion for awkward and uncomfortable situations, like stepping away from a friendship or comforting someone, and our complicated feelings about them. Plus, she gets how much harder these are for young people. This book, full of fabulous illustrations, "Nerd Facts," pop quizzes, and examples of how to do things the right way ("Nailing It") and the wrong way ("Not Nailing It," "Also Not Nailing It") will make kids laugh, which is the best way to make them pay attention. It's an accessible primer on how to be more loving, inclusive, self-confident, and, indeed, a better human." — Jenny Pritchett, better known as Jenny True, "Dear Jenny" columnist on Romper and author of You Look Tired: An Excruciatingly Honest Guide to New Parenthood

    “A book that’s not just for kids! What Can I Say? offers clear, practical, and reassuring guidance to children and adolescents about communicating with others in all kinds of situations. From texting and emailing to conversations with an older adult or an intimate partner, the tips in this book are thoughtful, straightforward, and inclusive to young people and their families, broadly defined. As a mother, psychologist, and professor, I’d like to see this as required reading for all young people and those who love them. In a world where the art of communication is far too often neglected, What can I say reminds us how much interacting in a healthy way with those around us enriches our lives. From compromise to gratitude to forgiveness to compassion, Catherine Newman reminds youth and the adults who care about them the importance of humanity in communication.” — Abigail Gewirtz, Ph.D., L.P, author of When the World Feels Like a Scary Place, and Editor-in-Chief, International Journal of Psychology

On Sale
May 24, 2022
Page Count
160 pages

Catherine Newman

About the Author

Catherine Newman is the author of What Can I Say? and the award-winning bestseller How to Be a Person, as well as two parenting memoirs: Waiting for Birdy and Catastrophic Happiness, and a middle-grade novel, One Mixed-Up Night. She's also the co-author of Stitch Camp. Newman is the etiquette columnist for Real Simple magazine and the editor of the James Beard Award–winning kids’ cooking magazine ChopChop. A regular contributor to publications including the New York Times, Romper, Cup of Jo, and Grown & Flown, Newman lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, with her family. Visit her at catherinenewmanwriter.com.

Learn more about this author