How to Check on Someone Without Being Weird About ItExpert tips for keeping things short, sweet, and (most importantly) un-cringe.
If you’ve ever gone through a tough time (or even a regular time) and had someone reach out to check on you, then you know how nice it can feel when someone shows they care. On the flip side, if you haven’t had that level of support before, you might be thinking, Wow. Must be nice, because you know how an assist could make a huge difference. That said, though it would be nice to receive that kind of comfort from other people, you’re forgiven if you feel awkward and strange when it’s time for you to reach out.
One reason it can feel kind of odd or even cringe to ask how your friends and family are really doing is—you guessed it—that pesky, lingering mental health stigma, explains psychiatrist Juan Romero-Gaddi, MD, founder of Equal Mental Health. You might also be hesitant to check in because you’re unsure if the person wants to talk about what’s going on, and you don’t want to be intrusive or make them feel uneasy, adds Jessica Stern, PhD, clinical psychologist at New York University Langone Health.
Then there’s the way you often don’t know what to say. Writing a 300-word caption for an Instagram post about how much you love your dog? Easy. Coming up with a short text to see if your friend is hanging in there? Hello, writer’s block.
The good news: Checking in on someone without making things awkward is a lot less complicated than you think. Read on for some expert-crafted mini scripts that you can literally copy and paste (you’re welcome!) as well as some pro tips for checking on someone without being weird.
1. Pick the least strange method of communication.
If you’ve ever had a silly Snapchat-streak-based relationship with someone, you get how unnatural it can feel to transition to serious convos via text or over the phone. With so many different platforms to communicate through, it’s best to use the one the other person will actually see and the one that can get your message across most effectively, Dr. Romero-Gaddi says. So unless you’re checking on your aunt, Facebook messages are probably a bust.
But should you text, DM, email, pay them an IRL visit, send a carrier pigeon (kidding)? Generally, calling or sending a text is a good way to go, Dr. Stern says. A phone call is more personal, direct, thorough, and allows you to hear the person’s tone, she adds. All that can help you know if their “I’m doing swell!” response is legit or just a front. When it comes to texting, that gives them room to “digest what you're saying or think about what you're asking before they respond,” Dr. Stern says.
You could also open the conversation by suggesting a mix of texting and calling for topics that are too long to discuss with your thumbs. To do that, Dr. Stern recommends texting something like, “Hey! I'd love to check in on you and see how you're doing. Would you be open to chatting sometime?” Another option: Sending each other voice memos. These audio texts are the best of both worlds because you can hear each other’s tone but you still have space to digest the information before replying.
2. Keep it short and sweet.
As for what to say when it's time for a heart-to-heart moment, don’t overthink it. If you mull it over too long, you may never actually send the text or make the call. Or, you might edit the exact phrasing so much that it comes off as formal and stiff, which probably isn’t the vibe you want.
Here’s what Dr. Stern recommends saying: “Hey [insert person’s name]! I’ve been trying to be more intentional about sharing my love and concern for the people that I care about. So I just wanted to check in and see how you’re doing.” Or, she says, you can keep it even more chill with something like, “Hey! Just checking in on all the people that I care about. How are you doing?” Easy peasy.
Feel free to tailor the phrasing and tone, but the key is to ask open-ended questions like, “How are you feeling? How are things going? Is there anything new going on?” Those flexible prompts can get them talking about what’s top of mind for them, Dr. Romero-Gaddi says.
If those messages still sound too serious for an otherwise laid-back relationship, try breaking the ice by sending a funny meme or TikTok that you know the other person would love, Dr. Stern says.
3. Signal that you’re open to talking about the hard stuff.
If they’re going through something challenging, like a breakup, losing a loved one, getting laid off, or struggling with their mental health, Dr. Romero-Gaddi recommends taking a slightly more specific approach when connecting. Start by acknowledging what they’re experiencing by saying, “Hey, I know things have been kind of stressful lately for you because of [insert challenge here]. How are you doing?” By calling out the issue, the person knows exactly what you’re referring to, and it helps set up a deeper conversation, Dr. Romero-Gaddi says.
4. Be generally up for whatever.
If you know the person is going through it, ask how they want to be supported instead of assuming what works for you will work for them. Often, having company can be comforting and reassuring because they don’t feel the pressure to open up but still feel supported, Dr. Stern says.
To do this, borrow one of Dr. Romero-Gaddi’s prompts and say, "Hey, I know you're going through a challenging time. Whatever you need (someone to listen, someone to watch TV with, or someone to do the grocery shopping), I’m here for you." Dr. Stern also suggests saying, “Hey! I know that you’ve been going through a tough time. If you want to talk about it, I’m here. If you want a distraction, I have plenty.” BTW, a healthy distraction can be scheduling an activity they would enjoy, going to a movie, or anything that doesn’t directly involve expressing their feelings, Dr. Stern says.
5. Maybe don’t try to fix their life.
When checking on someone, you want to avoid springing into superhero-mode and trying to fix everything, Dr. Romero-Gaddi says. All that does is burden you with pressure and impossible goals. Plus, they might just want support or space to vent, in which case your 12-step plan might come off as super overwhelming. So before you automatically put on your problem-solving hat, offer to help brainstorm. If they say yes, then chime in. If they’d prefer to vent and not work through solutions, then give them the space to let it out. Again, the goal is to support the person in the way they want to be supported.
6. Make like a Monday-morning email and circle back.
If this person isn’t ready to talk about their challenges, that’s totally fine. Giving them the space they need is a way you can be there for them. Just let them know that it’s OK if they need some time to process and that you’re around when they’re ready, Dr. Romero-Gaddi says.
The same goes if the person doesn’t respond to your text or call right away. If that happens, don’t take being left on read personally or like a sign that you did something wrong. Try following up with them in a couple of days or however long feels appropriate for your relationship and how often you usually communicate, Dr. Stern recommends. When you do circle back, let them know that you can support them in whatever way they want, whether that’s talking about it or providing a welcome distraction, like giving them the low-down on the attempted Bravo housewives coup.
7. When in doubt, opt for a thoughtful gesture over a big conversation.
If you’re still not sure how to check in on someone, just go with something simple and thoughtful. Just letting the person know you’re thinking about them without requiring a response can help them know they aren’t alone, Dr. Romero-Gaddi says.
In this scenario, Dr. Stern recommends a text like, “Hey, I just want you to know that I’m thinking about you.” You could even follow that with a funny or relatable meme depending on the person and what’s right for the situation. You could also say, “I know you have a lot on your plate, so no need to respond, but I want you to know I’m thinking about you.”
Other small gestures to show you care could include sending takeout or flowers, Dr. Stern adds. For someone who is going through a hard time, these small actions can have a big, meaningful impact.
Wondermind does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a replacement for medical advice. Always consult a qualified health or mental health professional with any questions or concerns about your mental health.