“Let Me Know What I Can Do….” Vs. “How Can I Help?”

As some of you may know, I got married 2 weeks ago (Yes, it’s true!) and while I did not have a large wedding (3 people attended) or an enormous party afterward (25 people in the backyard) it was quite eough to stress me out. Because while I love having others over, I experience—or perhaps create! I’m willing to cop to that– a certain amount of…..stress? Mayhem? Upset?…prior to any event.

It was during this time that my now-husband learned the difference between saying, “Let me know what I can do….” And asking, “How can I help?”

Although I forget the exact circumstances that led to my (possibly shrill) elucidation on the distinction between these two phrases, I’m guessing they had something to do with the to-do lists that were taped all over the house.

To-do lists that, to me, made it perfectly clear how he could help. Nonetheless, he—hapless fellow—said, “Well, you let me know what I can do….”

“Hmmm…” you might be thinking, “Poor man. She really had gone off the deep end. I don’t see/hear a big difference.”

Ah, let me explain. It’s possible it may make your life easier should you find yourself confronted by an over-caffeinated, pen wielding, to-do-list-maker.  

For me, “Let me know what I can do….” is passive. It lands as “OK, well, sometime in the future—heaven knows not now—you can remind me again about something that I might or might not do, meanwhile I am going to lie here and read a murder mystery.”

This does not end well.

Whereas (again– to me!) “How can I help?” is active. Immediate. Something will be happening shortly. Items will be crossed off the to-do list.

This ends far more happily.

Luckily, thankfully, joyfully, I have the sweetest husband on the planet, who immediately internalized this distinction, and has been employing it—to my delight—ever since.

Happily ever after, indeed.

Frances Cole Jones