What Not To Say If You Actually Want To Help Someone

What Not To Say If You Actually Want To Help Someone

When bad things happen to our friends and family, we often want to help. Redditor usapeaches argues that saying “let me know if you need anything” is not the right thing to say, because you’re actually burdening them with the need to reach out to you for help. When you want to offer your assistance, be specific.

Images by R. Formidable (Shutterstock) and Irmak Akcadogan.

When your friend loses a loved one, your sister ends up in hospital or something else bad happens, it’s important to be specific about how you can help. In these instances, those in need are in a place where they can’t handle their normal day-to-day life on their own, and they aren’t going to have an easy time asking you to do them a favour. Offer to watch their kids, pick up groceries, cook them food or walk their dogs. Think about what you can do to help them, rather than task them with assigning you — and everyone else — who offered.

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with letting someone know you’re there to help, if you really want to make yourself useful, then be sure to offer specifics. When you need their help someday, they’ll remember.

If you really want to be helpful don’t say “let me know if you need anything” [Reddit]


  • Sounds remarkably similar to a presenting technique I was taught. Rather than asking “Does anybody have any questions?” be specific. “Does anybody have any questions about X, or maybe Y. Perhaps Z?”

    When we give people a blank slate they face choice paralysis. If you want them to do something, guide them in the direction you want them to go.

    Same principle would apply here, I wager.

  • I often think about this when I’m saying that phrase.
    The problem for me is recognizing what I can do to help, and recognizing what suggestions are acceptable and not crossing a line in to someones personal space, or accidentally striking a sensitive point.

  • The worst thing to say is the platitude ‘don’t worry, everything will be alright’. Not only are you telling the person not to worry and burdening them with the guilt of worrying and not appearing to be stronger, but you are telling them a plain lie ‘everything will be alright’ and potentially giving them false hope. You cannot know that everything will be alright in the future – nobody can.

    Personally, I think most people say things like this because they can’t or don’t want to handle the other person’s pain & suffering, and don’t want to be reminded of their own problems. Its basically a very selfish and stupid thing to say, and is not at all helpful.

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!