With so many uncertainties stemming from the current pandemic, you might be looking for more human connection and comfort from friends and family. And while it’s good to check in with loved ones more regularly, simply asking how they are doing might not be enough to show true empathy.
There are alternative ways to inquire about how someone is doing that can be more helpful and supportive—especially during a challenging time. The most important thing is to ask a genuine question that invites a genuine answer.
If there’s someone in your life that really needs your support and compassion, here are 10 ways to ask how someone is doing that are empathetic and open-ended.
1 How can I support you?
If your friend or family member is dealing with something particularly stressful, ask them how you can help. Sometimes, it can be comforting just to know that you are ready to support them. Even if they don’t actually allow you to do anything special for them, like cooking them dinner or babysitting their new puppy, it’s good to express that you are there for moral support and are willing to help if need be.
2 What’s been on your mind lately?
Allowing your colleague to vent about whatever has been on their mind will likely lead to a deeper, more honest conversation. They’ll feel like you really care about their inner thoughts and feelings. By asking such a direct question, you’re letting them know that the floor is theirs and you are ready to listen to anything that’s been bothering them.
3 Tell me about your day.
This is a great open-ended way of asking someone how they’re doing in a time-bound manner. By inquiring about their day, you are creating the space for them to talk about whatever has affected their mood or feelings most recently. Plus, you might be able to find more immediate ways to help and support them, knowing what’s irritating or distressing them on this particular day.
4 What’s bringing you joy right now?
There are millions of ways to find joy even in difficult times, but for some reason we are always prone to focusing on the negative. By asking this question, you’ll remind your friend that there is still at least something that’s good and redeeming to be grateful for. Even if they answer with something rather miniscule—like “I had a great cup of coffee this morning” or “I finished reading a great book last night”—pulling a specific example out of them will help them to see that there is joy to be found, even when struggling.
5 Are you holding up OK?
If you know for a fact that your partner is going through a rough patch, it’s nice to ask a question that acknowledges the difficulty head-on. This is also a good way to start the conversation with an undertone of empathy; you’re recognizing that they might not be doing too well right now, and you’re interested in knowing exactly how they’re getting by.
6 How are you taking care of yourself these days?
This is a rather sweet way of sparking a conversation about your friend or family member’s self-care routine. What do they do to make themselves feel better on days when they feel low? Knowing what they’re currently doing to create a little positivity during tough times will give you a better sense for how you can also console or take care of them.
7 I’ve been thinking about you. What’s new?
Telling someone that they’ve been on your mind will instantly engender empathy and connection, as they will know that you’re concerned about them. “What’s new?” is a perfect follow-up question, showing them that you’re curious to know what they’ve been doing. Again, this is a powerful open-ended avenue, creating a dialogue for sharing anything that’s important to them.
8 Is there anything I can help take care of?
Similar to offering your support, you can ask your friend if there is a specific task or activity that you can do to take the pressure off of them. Something as trivial as picking up their prescription from the pharmacy or watering their plants could be enough to ease the stress that they feel when things seem overwhelming. Even if they say no, it’s always nice to help in whatever way you can without being asked!
9 Are you free for a virtual coffee chat?
With the need for social distancing making it a more challenging than usual to see friends, offering to video call is the next best thing for some “face-to-face” catching up. Make it feel like you two are hanging out at your favorite cafe by ensuring you both have a cup of warm coffee to sip on as you chat. Having authentic one-on-one time, even if it takes place behind a screen, is an ideal way to reconnect and make sure your friend is doing okay.
10 What were your highs and lows this week?
A final alternative to asking someone how they are is to open a discussion about their high moments and low moments of the week. This will not only allow them to vent about their main pain points, but it will also make them aware of the positive things that happened too, which will definitely help boost their mood.