We all need help at some point in our lives. So it stands to reason that the people in our lives need help sometimes, too. Most of us are happy to help the people we love. In fact, plenty of people would happily help a stranger in need.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- How to Offer Help to Friends or Family After a Death or During Difficult Times
- How to Offer Help at Work or School
- How to Help to Anyone Else in Need
But it can sometimes be challenging to know the right way to offer that help. You might be afraid of imposing on someone or offending them by helping when they didn’t ask for it. Here, we delve into some ways you can say “how can I help?” politely and without ruffling any feathers.
How to Offer Help to Friends or Family After a Death or During Difficult Times
When a friend or family loses a loved one, it’s hard to know how to comfort them. A lot of us will say “Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.” While that sounds supportive on the surface, it puts a lot of burden on them to have to ask for your help. Instead, offer some concrete ways you can offer them support. This relieves the pressure on them having to ask for something specific.
1. “I’d love to order some groceries and have them delivered to your house. Can you text me a list of what you need, or would you like me to just send over some staples and treats that I know you and your family enjoy?”
When someone is grieving, simple chores like going to the grocery store can seem overwhelming. You can help a friend or family member by picking up groceries and dropping them off.
If you don’t live nearby, you can still arrange a grocery delivery long-distance. This is a great example of how to care for someone from far away.
2. “Why don’t you let me take the girls for a sleepover or even the whole weekend? I’m sure you could use a little downtime.”
Sometimes when you’re grieving, it can be difficult to fully engage with your kids. Offering to babysit for a day or two can help your friend or family member a great deal.
It gives them a chance to let their guard down and drive without keeping a brave face on for their kids. It can also allow them to gather their emotional resources moving forward.
3. “Some of our friends are wondering what they can do to help your family during this time. Would it be okay with you if I organized a meal train?”
As we stated earlier, people have a hard time doing mundane tasks like grocery shopping while they’re grieving. Cooking can be another difficult and tedious chore to navigate during hard times. In a meal train, people sign up to drop off prepared lunches or dinners at the home of someone in mourning.
There are websites you can use to coordinate. They’ll help you organize so people can sign up for specific dates and families aren’t inundated with a dozen casseroles on the same day. You can also include meal preferences or allergies to ensure your friend gets something they can eat. You can also collect financial donations from people who want to contribute but live too far away.
4. “I know it’s probably hard to be alone right now. Would you like to come stay in my guest room for a while? Or if you’d prefer, I could come stay with you at your place.”
If someone has lost their spouse or partner to death or divorce, their house can feel incredibly lonely. If your friend or family member is going through the end of a relationship, you can offer them some comfort just by being there with them.
They can have a change of scenery at your house, or just have some company in their own space.
How to Offer Help at Work or School
We often depend on our classmates and coworkers. We may end up needing to work closely with them on certain projects. You can form a tight bond with someone when you work together or are in a competitive school department.
Some people have an “every man for himself” mentality when it comes to coworkers or classmates. But it makes your environment so much better when you can support one another. Here, we share some ways you can extend help to coworkers or classmates in need.
5. “I understand you’re under a lot of pressure with your course load right now. I’m happy to help you with your portion of our group project if it would relieve some pressure on you.”
We’ve all been stuck with a classmate who doesn’t pull their weight on a group project. But if you know your classmate is usually conscientious, you may see if there’s a way you can help lighten their burden. They’ll appreciate and remember it. They may even return the favor in the future.
6. “I know you’re worried about running out of paid leave while you undergo treatments. The other employees and I have donated some of our paid vacation time so that you don’t have to worry about money coming in.”
If a coworker is experiencing an illness, they may worry about not being able to work.
Some offices allow people to pool their paid leave and donate it to other employees in need. If you’re in a position to do so, it’s a practical and thoughtful way to help.
7. “I know you’ve been dealing with the death of your husband. I’m so sorry for your loss. I wanted to offer to make myself available to help any of your clients while you’re taking time off to grieve.”
When someone goes through a personal tragedy, they’re not always able to make work their top priority. If you’re close to a coworker who’s experiencing a hard time, offer to help with their workload until they’re in a better place.
8. “Let me treat you to lunch off-campus today, just the two of us. I know you’re going through some hard times, and I’d love to listen if you want to talk about it. And if you’d rather not, I am also great at providing distractions!”
Sometimes people need someone to listen to them when they’re facing challenges. And sometimes they’d rather not dwell on it at all. Just be there for them and let them tell you what they need at that moment.
How to Help to Anyone Else in Need
There are people all around us who need help. You may have a friend who’s having a difficult time affording groceries. You may encounter a stranger who is having a medical crisis in public. Here, we talk about how to help people in need whether you know them or not.
9. “Here, let me get the door for you.”
If you notice someone in a wheelchair or on crutches, or see someone pushing a stroller, this is a simple and thoughtful gesture. Even something small like this can have an impact on people.
10. “I noticed you look a little lost. Can I help you find something?”
People who live in tourist towns sometimes get annoyed by people blocking the sidewalk or taking up too much space.
But if you see someone who looks out of their depth, you can brighten their day by offering to give them directions. You can also take time to recommend local businesses and restaurants that they might not otherwise discover. It’s a small gesture, but one they may remember for a long time.
11. “Wait, don’t put those away. I’m happy to pay for them if you don’t mind.”
Many of us have had that dreaded moment at the grocery store where we realize we don’t have enough money to pay for everything. It can be really embarrassing to tell the cashier that some of the food needs to go back. If you happen to be behind someone in line who’s going through that, you may be able to step in and help.
Obviously not everyone is in a position to pick up someone else’s grocery bill. But if you’re able to help, there’s something very rewarding about ensuring someone in need gets fed.
12. “I know you got hit with a large vet bill for your cat. I’d love to help you pay it off. Can you send me your PayPal or Venmo details?”
Pets are an important member of our families. But veterinary care can be incredibly expensive. Sometimes our friends or family members have to spend a lot of money keeping their animals healthy. If you’re able, offer to chip in and help defray the costs.
Ways to Politely Offer to Help Someone in Need
The world can be a difficult place sometimes. What gets us through it is a sense of community and camaraderie. You can be a support for a person in need. Friends, family members, coworkers, and even strangers need our help. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a person in need. We can get through even our hardest times when we pull together.