Good Starting Point: Ask yourself, "Why?" No, not "why is this happening to them?" (though we will usually find ourselves asking that question many times over--and I will deal with that one at a later point), rather this question of "why?" is one of introspection. "Why am I going out of my way to help this person or this group of people? What is it that is truly motivating me to take time and energy away from my already-busy life to help this person deal with their painful predicament?"
It is important, often very much so, for us to have an answer to this question. If we are sincere in our desire to say the things that will be effective in giving meaningful help, we need to be clear as to why we want to do this. Why ask Why? Because we are not always motivated to help the needful person for the one reason that we think we ought to be; and that reason is Love.
There are different religious edicts that (rightly, I think) tell us to love our fellow man and to help take care of those who cannot take care of themselves. It is the easiest of motivators to state, but sometimes the hardest to be truly honest about. I mean, we don't really love everyone who my need us. We often don't even love everyone in our own extended families.
There will be times when we will be called upon to help someone we don't really love (could be an in-law who is a real jerk, or an unkempt homeless man who is angry at everyone, or in my case, a man who abused his wife and kids, even to the point of trying to shoot his children with a single-shot shotgun. If you let yourself believe that you love this person when you don't, and you go to sit and converse with them, doing your best to give them some meaningful support, you probably won't succeed. Why? Please read my account of the creep abuser and see why: