It's good to say “I'm here for you” or “Let me know if you need anything,” but it's not ideal.

Offers like this are vague – what exactly does it mean to be “here for someone?” These offers also put the onus on the other person to figure out what to ask you for, which can be a lot to ask of a suffering person.

Instead, make specific, tangible offers. Don't say, “Wow, that sounds rough. Let me know if I can help.” Instead, say, “Wow, that sounds rough. Do you want to talk about it?”

Instead of saying, “Let me know if you need anything” ask, “Would it help if bring you a meal this week?” or,“Would you like to hang out later?”

If they say no to your specific offer, it's okay to make one generic offer like,“Is there anything else I can do to help?” but start by making specific offers.

Note: when making your specific offers, be careful not to try to fix the other person's problem, and be careful not to trivialize their problem.

For instance, I remember a time I was very sad because I was mourning the death of my cat. A friend of mine noticed I was sad and said “Let me show you cute kitten photos – that will cheer you up!” Although she meant well, her words were hurtful because they implied that my problem was trivial and could be solved with a few cat photos.

Here's some examples of good specific offers you can make:

  • Do you want to talk about it?
  • Do you want to get some coffee?
  • Do you want to go for a walk?
  • Do you want a hug?
  • Want to play some video games with me?
  • Can I cook a meal for you?
  • Do you want advice?
  • Do you want to tell me about the person you lost? [if they are in a breakup or lost a loved one]
  • Can I sit next to you?

Next: Offer support, not solutions