That uncomfortable silence after a friend has told you his bad news or a rant of how overwhelmed she is. Break ups and broken arms and melt downs. Even for our best friends, we don’t always know what to say or do to make it better. We fumble to fill the space with salving words or, sometimes worse, with solutions. When really, all we need to do is ask: How can I help?

This phrase works for tragedies and boo boos and bad days.
It quells panic. It can create urgency or buy time.
It’s effective with strangers and lovers.
Everyone understands it.

I learned this from my friend Michelle, who’s a super-sensitive Irish Italian social worker (read: hardwired to be helpful). And even though she’s full of bright ideas and anecdotes, she has the presence to just pause and ask, How can I help?

It creates a soft space to meet.
It invites collaboration.
It empowers everyone.

Danielle LaPorte is the outspoken creator of The Desire Map, author of The Fire Starter Sessions (Random House/Crown), co-creator of Your Big Beautiful Book Plan, and soon-to-be publisher of DANIELLE Magazine, launching in early 2014. An inspirational speaker, former think tank exec, and business strategist, she writes weekly at, where over a million visitors have gone for her straight-up advice—a site that’s been deemed “the best place on-line for kick-ass spirituality” and was named one of the “Top 100 Websites for Women” by Forbes.

You can also find her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter @daniellelaporte.

*Featured image by AlexVan