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I recently dropped my wallet while shopping, reached out among local lost-and-found groups on Facebook, made contact with someone who found it and made arrangements with them to meet up so they can give it back to me. There was nothing of value in the wallet so there's no issue there, but I do want the wallet itself back.

The issue is, the person in question has apparently decided that I'm her new friend. Now that she has my phone number, she's been sending me long texts and voicemails telling me way more about her life than I need to know. I feel like our contact should have been as simple as 'Thank you for finding my wallet, where and when can we meet?'; 'X street at 2 o'clock?'; 'Perfect, see you then'. I get the impression that she is someone with a lot of problems - abusive relationship, serious illness in the family, etc, and that she has been dying for someone to talk to. But she has also mentioned that she's already seeing the proper authorities/supports about these things so it's not like I can give her a useful phone number either, I think she just needs a buddy.

I'm not without compassion and certainly don't want to do any damage to someone who is clearly quite vulnerable, but I never volunteered to be this person for her and she's a total stranger to me.

On the phone I can be noncommital or express a quick note of sympathy but quickly change the subject back to making arrangements to hand over the wallet (which I have to do many times, she is very quick to bring the conversation back to her problems). But we're due to meet in person tomorrow so how do I stop her talking my ear off, again without doing her any damage because she is clearly in a bad place, but also without volunteering to be her new support system?

For cultural context, Ireland is a place where kindness towards strangers is highly valued, where cutting someone off when they're talking is considered very rude (and similarly you're expected to notice when the person you're talking to is politely trying to get away, which this person does not), and using phrases like 'sorry you have this problem but it is your problem' may well get you stoned in the street!!

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    Are you 100% sure this person actually has your wallet? – Bryan Krause Oct 12 '18 at 17:58
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    Answers here seem to focus on how you can keep this stranger to talking too much to you at the meeting. Is this really what you want? Or do you also want to make sure this person doesn't call you after that to continue talking about their problem? – Ælis Oct 12 '18 at 19:47
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    @BryanKrause yes, she was able to say what was in it, definitely mine. – Meelah Oct 15 '18 at 17:29
  • @Noon specifically at the meeting, afterwards I can block her number if needs be. – Meelah Oct 15 '18 at 17:30
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I sometimes also struggle to disengage myself from someone who is looking to talk. My usual tactic is to make obvious signs of your need to be leaving (ex. taking out your car keys, checking your watch or your phone for the time) and when you have the chance bring the topic back to your wallet

Thanks again for finding my wallet and helping me get it back, you know I'm really sorry to hear about [insert problem they have mentioned] but I really need to be getting to my next appointment. I hope things work out for you.

This way you're addressing the topic they wanted to talk about and bringing the purpose of your meeting back into focus. I think wishing them well but not suggesting or volunteering to help should leave you morally in the clear and not leave an open invitation for them to rely on you.

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    Thanks for the answer. I didn't see it until after the interaction was over but it's pretty much what I ended up doing. I did basically have to physically walk away before she'd stop talking though! – Meelah Oct 15 '18 at 17:32
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I would say you tell her about your own problems, (only little ones, and not complain or be mopey about them. Just mention), be very polite and obvious that you are at the point in your life, where you would just wanna be alone in order to sort things out, or make it clear that you don't see yourself as the best fit to advise her on her personal matters.

Do try to be supportive. I mean tell her to be strong, tell her that most of the time in life, we are the only ones we got. We, humans, are just not good at being alone, we want something or someone, no matter how useless that is just to avoid being on our own. Tell her that it's okay. She is not wrong to find solace in a stranger, thank her for her trust in you but that blind trust can lead her to some trouble. Not everyone who has an ear is worth talking to.

You don't wanna be rude I admire that. But there is a difference between being rude and holding your ground. You don't have to ignore her or cut her off. Just respectfully tell her that when you don't respond as maybe she expects or doesn't reply to her, does not mean you don't feel her pain but it's just that you feel helpless and awkward in her situation because it's obvious you can't directly help her.

Hopefully, she will get the point and at least lessen the communication. However, I would humbly ask you to just take a few minutes and just listen to her from time to time. It doesn't have to be that often or not at all. But kindness will serve a long way. I hope she finds her way through life.

EDIT. The reason I am asking to mention your own issues is to let her know that you have your own life to deal with. Don't do it like you are whining. It has worked for me in the past. I had a friend who always kept talking about things and people in her life that I could not at all relate to ( because I never met those people ) I felt annoyed but I had a good relationship with that friend in general and didn't wanna hurt their feeling, so I started talking about my own life, and people in my life who they never met, soon they got the point and from thereon we talked about things that were common to both of us.

  • Sorry, -1. One of the parameters of the question is that I did not and do not volunteer to be a source of support for this person, and most of what you've described here is ways of increasing communication between us. To clarify, I don't get the impression that she is in crisis; if she was, I would consider it a duty to help. But she already has professional support in place (which she has told me about in detail). – Meelah Oct 17 '18 at 10:50

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