How Can I Help You?

Lunch Conversations

Last week I had lunch with someone I met recently at a business event. We had made plans to meet socially and also learn more about each other’s business. As we conversed over our salads, my new acquaintance generously gave me some ideas for local connections to make here in Phoenix, knowing that I’m new to the valley. Wanting to reciprocate, I asked, “How can I help you?” She paused and thanked me for asking the question. After thinking for a moment, she mentioned a project she was working on and I was able to provide a resource for her right away. “What a great question,” she commented. Then I suggested that whenever we meet, we remember to ask each other that question, as our answers might be different at any given point in time.

When To Use This Question

The short answer is: all the time. Sometimes by default and with good intentions, we offer advice to our friends, families, and co-workers, yet that is not always exactly what is needed. Before proposing a solution, it is best to ask the question: How can I help you? (What can I do for you? What would support you right now?) Just by asking the question, you are doing a service because you are getting the other person to think about what he or she needs and to be specific.

A common situation where this question can be used effectively is during a business networking event. It is important to ask it sincerely, listen, and be willing to follow up when the opportunity to help arises.

You can also look for opportunities throughout your work day to ask this question of your boss, your staff, peers, and clients. Understanding the needs of the people you serve will help you determine your own priorities and enhance the value of your contributions.

Another good time to pose this question is when someone has just done you a favor. By asking, listening, and following through, you will have truly expressed your gratitude.

Bring the question home as well, and ask it of the adults and the children in your life. The impact will be notable as your loved ones will feel heard and supported.

Answer It For Yourself

In addition to asking of others “How can I help you?” answer it for yourself so that when others offer their support, you are able to articulate your own needs. Before having lunch with a colleague or attending a professional event, for example, think about what kind of assistance would be beneficial to you. How can someone support you in taking the next step toward your goal? It might be as simple as asking someone to make an introduction or share a resource. Break it down and be specific. Make it easy for people to help you.

This Week: 1) Experiment with asking, “How can I help you?” at work, social settings, and home. Notice the impact. 2) Think about how others can help you and be bold enough to ask for it.

Each time you forward my articles to others and invite them to subscribe to Current of Life, you are helping me. How can I help you?

Here's to you,

© 2008, Virginia M. Kravitz and In the Current®. All Rights Reserved. You are welcome to reproduce this article provided it is without any alteration, includes the copyright above, and if distributing electronically includes a link to

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