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My classmate is being deported from the U.S. due to visa issues and has no intentions of returning in the coming years - they plan to join a lab at university in their home country. They're really upset about having to leave and are easily angered about anything so I try to be careful with my words for them.

I know they have some furniture that I could use. Since they'll soon have no use for it, how could I ask for it? I could offer money too but not much; my stipend is not much to live on.

Ideally I'd inherit their furniture. Their family in their home country is wealthy, so I could potentially get free furniture that I've needed for a while now.

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In my experience, offering to help them with the problem is the best way to start.

“What’s your plan for moving? Do you need help?”

This opens the door for you to be able to then offer to take the furniture off their hands to be helpful.

I have moved a lot and it’s a pain, even when it’s not in bad circumstances. Your friend might be relieved to have a plan for it and may not ask for money.

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    Just as an aside, "Is there anything I can do to help?" is the best starting point when dealing with anyone having trouble. – EvilSnack May 8 at 14:47
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    I find "Is there anything I can do to help?" better than "Do you need help?”. In the latter sentence, need has a subconscious meaning of "Only bother me if you absolutely can't do it alone". (That said, when speaking I get it wrong and use "need" myself all the time...) – Federico Poloni May 10 at 13:02
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It seems OP does not have genuine concern for the wellbeing of the deported. That's alright, we don't have to be close friends of everyone. But let's not try to act like we are close friends just to inherit the furniture, as some answers here suggest. That's underhanded, deceptive and once the target person recognizes this, they will certainly be very disappointed or angry.

I would ask the person directly, something like:

Hey, I hear you are forced to leave the country. I'm sorry this is happening to you. If it helps at all, I've long searched for furniture, and since yours may be left behind, I feel we could both benefit if you decide to sell it to me. I would also like to help you with moving in return.

  • Being sorry is a mere display of basic empathy. It is not underhanded.
  • The benefit is clear: They do not have to worry about getting rid of the furniture, so that can be helpful.
  • Offering some additional help is a guesture that shows you are not preying on defenseless panicking victims, but are willing to do a fair trade.

I've been in more or less similar situations and have experienced both approaches. Tho the reasoning above should provide more plausibility. In my experience, just stating, in a friendly manner, your intention is virtually always better.

I grew up in Germany, but I believe that it is possible to be both polite and direct.

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    Isn't being sorry a display of sympathy rather than empathy? – gerrit May 8 at 12:21
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    Could you explain the apparently large difference you see between your advice of "display basic empathy, even if you are not genuinely concerned" and "bla bla bla, empathize"? – smcs May 8 at 12:38
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    @smcs "bla bla bla" implies (strongly, to me) that no genuine concern is needed at all, that the action is entirely focussed on the goal of acquiring a financial benefit and not on helping a fellow human in trouble. That abusing the pressure is fine. I see this in contrast with a true mutual benefit, which includes a basic level of just trying to be helpful. The spirit of the question (to the target person) is different. – mafu May 8 at 13:42
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    @gerrit you generally have to have been empathetic before you can truly be sympathetic. Otherwise you're offering fake condolences in your sympathy. But getting caught up on those semantics is silly, especially with someone who most likely isn't a native speaker. (assumption as they grew up in Germany, not from their well written English) – TCooper May 8 at 23:58
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    @alephzero In my experience charity shops usually receive furniture for free and sell it for a small amount of money, which is how they finance that they also give away some furniture to those who really need it and can't afford to buy any. I was happy to give furniture to charity shops because they came to pick it up, so unless I could find someone to buy it and pick it up, it was the only way to get rid of it for free at all. – gerrit May 9 at 7:59
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If I were you, I would say that I am so so so sorry that he needs to leave and ask many questions about family and future plans, and say how much regret, and would spontaneously mention the books:

what are you going to do with your furniture? Maybe you should sell it or even give it as a gift. I am so sorry. Please remember me if you decide to do so.

When my mother's friend passed away, it was very sad for everyone but at the end, they gifted us their furniture. They did know we are in need and wanted to help us.

Maybe if you let them know how much that would be important to you, they will offer it themselves.

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