Tips for Offering Help to Others

Let’s rethink how we go about offering help. A lot of times, when we offer help, we say something like, “Hey, I am (either so happy or so sorry) that you’re experiencing this. What can I do to help?” More often than not, the response is something along the lines of, “I think we’re OK but thanks,” or “I’m not really sure what we need.” These interactions typically result in us not being able to give help, and that other person not being able to receive help. When this happens, no one wins.

Most of the time when we offer help, we genuinely mean it. We really want to know what specific action we can take to make this person’s life a little bit easier. Most of the time, the person or people really could use help. They just don’t have emotional or mental capacity to take on figuring out what it is that they need. Let’s rethink how we offer help. Let’s do so in a better way – in a way that is actually helpful.


Humans have a natural tendency to divide experiences into good or bad. We’re either congratulating someone or telling them we’re sorry for their situation. Often, though, experiences are a little of both. Let’s do our best to acknowledge the whole spectrum of what a person might be feeling.

For example:
  • Someone has a new baby: “Congratulations! We’re so excited for you – he/she’s perfect. I know having a new baby is exhausting, though. I’d like to help.”
  • Someone loses a loved one: “I’m so sorry for your loss. I know it’s a relief that they aren’t in pain anymore but grieving that is so so hard.”

Also, there are a lot of situations that we truly just can’t make better. I find it helpful to acknowledge those particular instances. That way the person knows that I’m not trying to fix the situation. I’m just trying to do something that makes their experience a little bit easier.


When offering help, I like to come up with very specific, tangible things that I am equipped to do for them. This is important for a couple reasons:

  1. I’m presenting specific options to someone. Rather than expecting them to take on the cognitive load of figuring out what they need, I lay out options. Hopefully, something I mention will resonate with them.
  2. I only offer choices I am equipped to do and can take on. I don’t have an individual tell me what they need or have it be something I can’t do.

I usually try to offer two or three options. Some examples are:

  • Bringing a meal.
  • Watching their children.
  • Sitting with someone while they grieve or process an event.
  • Helping transport kids to and from school.
  • Going with someone to an appointment.

When we take this way or offering help, instead of, “Hey, I am (either so happy or so sorry) that you’re experiencing this. What can I do to help?” We get, “I’m so sorry for your loss. I know it’s comforting that they’re no longer in pain, but that grief is hard. I know I can’t make that grief better, but I’d like to support you. I could bring food, keep you company, help with funeral planning, or watch your kids for the day while you get things done. Would any of that be helpful?”

When I offer help this way, the person almost always takes me up on my offer. Then, everyone wins because they feel supported and you get to help a friend or family member in need. Next time you go to offer help to a friend, give this a try.

For more ideas on how to be helpful in the best ways possible, be sure to read Tips for Supporting New Moms.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.