Etiquette Questions, Answered: Tricky Conversations
Q. For the past year, my friend has been complaining again and again to me about the same issue. She has never heeded any of my advice, leading me to feel drained whenever she brings up the topic. How should I respond the next time she starts griping?
A. Your friend is not really looking for your advice. She has a chronic problem that she can’t help talking about. But for some reason she doesn’t feel capable of taking constructive steps to rectify the situation. That’s why she hasn’t acted on your suggestions.
After patiently listening to her vent and offering solutions for a year, you have more than fulfilled the duty of friendship. It’s time for your pal to get assistance from someone else—ideally, a therapist or a counselor. So the next time she brings up the subject, gently say, “You know I care about you. But I don’t think my suggestions on this topic have been helpful for you. Instead of covering the same ground again, let’s brainstorm: Is there anyone you could speak to who might have better ideas for solving this predicament?”