The first rule of offering to help a friend is that you don’t ask “can I do something for you?” People are polite, they’ll say no thanks, even if they have ten million things that they’d love to hand off. Unless it’s your best friend who isn’t afraid to ask for your help, you have to guide the conversation. Put yourself in their shoes for a minute. Maybe you’ve been there before. Think of something that could really help them and then offer to do that thing.
This is how the conversation goes if you’re offering help to a friend who is a new mom:
Hey friend! I know you just had that baby and you’re probably pretty sore and tired from pushing a human being out of yourself. And from what I understand, when those humans come out they are completely incapable of fending for themselves, so I guess you’ve had a huge life adjustment and there’s a chance you haven’t brushed your teeth for days. It’s ok, I still like you even with nasty breath.
Anyway, the reason I called is because I’m going to the grocery store for a few things, so give me a list of what you need. If you don’t tell me, I’m going to pick out random things to bring you, like 3 varieties of BBQ sauce and a jar of pickles. Don’t make me bring you a bag of toasted-os.
The key there is that you don’t ask “can I get you anything” you ask them “what do you need?” Then when you bring the groceries, or whatever it is you’re doing to help, go ahead and unpack them, put them away, then pop that casserole you pre-made in the oven so she has dinner for the night.
Alternatively, I would say that you should read the situation. If a friend is really stressed, making her tell you what she needs might add to that stress. Now she feels like she has to do this thing for you. You had good intentions by trying to help a friend, but your help could create an additional burden. In this case, you could probably identify something you could do to relieve that stress your friend is feeling, and you should just do it.
If you know a friend needs help, don’t wait for them to ask, and don’t take no for an answer. Just be there.
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