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I'm usually uncomfortable when a friend mentions her lack of money during a casual conversation. The topic of money itself doesn't make me uncomfortable, but the fact that I really don't know what to say makes me feel weird. I would like to help, if I can, but I don't know what it is the expected behavior on this kind of situation.

This situation occurs when we start a conversation and when we say how things go in life. She quickly mentions her money issues as a reason that she can't do all she would like to do (e.g. going out, buy stuff might need, etc.).

I really don't know what to say so what I usually do is remain silent. The other options (that I don't like either) could be:

  • Giving her some advice, but it feels like condescending or patronizing. I'm not in her shoes, so advice that would apply to my life would be easy talk.
  • Changing topic, but it feels like I don't care and maybe rude.
  • Remaining silent, and waiting her to say something else, that seems awkward.
  • 1
    some examples of the types of things your friend says would be helpful to understand the situation better – Kev Price Jul 13 '17 at 14:33
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There is a very good chance your friend is just venting. In that case I find the most productive way to deal with it is to just agree that it sucks, that the situation is hard, that what is happening is unfair, etc based on what the complaints are. They are not really looking for a solution just not to feel so isolated and alone while dealing with it. You do not actually have to even agree with those things, it is just really being polite and being there for a friend.

If it is something that you feel like hey I can help this way, feel free to offer that help, just don't get upset if they turn that help down, and yet continue to complain about it. Some people, including me, sometime just like to complain about problem and not actually solve them, or the solution you are offer is not the solution that is acceptable to them. Don't take it personally.

If it starts to become a problem talk it out with them. I would start that conversation something like:

Hey I know you have some money problems, but when you talk about them I am not sure what you are expecting from me. I have no problem listening to you vent but I just want to make sure I am not failing you as a friend by missing something.

I cant promise this wont make things more awkward with your friend but I think this uncomfortable conversation is better than letting an issue come between you when it didn't need to.

  • +1 This approach is also taught in parenting, children do this venting really often, and only expect being heard. – Dragonturtle Aug 30 '17 at 8:18
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This is a situation which is seen more frequently than we might think, since it shows itself in multiple different guises. Usually, the underlying issue in this case is simply a need to be heard. I see it regularly in counselling. The person is not looking for financial assistance as much as they just want to know that someone cares enough to listen.

Hence, it shows up frequently (depending on the person) in bringing up money issues, talking about how a friend / spouse / child / parent / etc. isn't treating them as they ought to be treated, and multiple other ways.

Sometimes, however, as is your case, the person doesn't realise that they are just a bit out of place sharing these issues with you, since you're not really comfortable getting "dragged in."

As a counsellor, my usual solution is simply to look the person straight in the eye, affirm them, listen, and wait till they've finished unloading. Afterwards, they'll be more open to solutions, if they even want such.

As a person in a relationship, obviously, I don't really want to be hearing this ramble every second day; hence, dropping a hint that you're not really interested in hearing about their financial issues could be in line. I'd try something like,

Say, why don't you check out a financial counsellor? I really can't help you since I'm not exactly expertised in that area.

or

I can see why you're concerned about this. However, I really don't think I can help you with it. Do you have someone you can go to who could help you work through your finances?


Hope this is helpful!

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Are you sure this isn't an attempt at bonding with you? If I understood it correctly (please do correct me if I'm wrong), she brings up her issues within the topic of the conversation. On top of that, she seems clearly not embarrassed by talking about it, since she keeps bringing it up.

I know plenty of people who just enjoy talking about obstacles in their life. I just listen to them and interrupt the silence by making short remarks about what they just said.

Before finding out what you are expected to do, you should find out if she expects anything else from you at all. There's a solid chance that you are already doing what she wants you to do.

While I agree with Chad's answer that asking her would be the most straightforward way to solve this issue, you could also test the waters by adding emotional tones to the conversation, such as:

  • sympathy

    Damn, that's harsh. I wish I could help you somehow.

  • surprise

    I can't believe you went through all of that! How did you manage to hold up so well?

  • encouragement

    You know what? What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Keep on believing and I know you'll find a way to turn it around.

These remarks are better inserted to the conversation when it gets into a certain lull. They don't work as well if you have to interrupt the other person, or if she has to quickly focus on something else for the moment (such as a kid calling her, or the waiter asking your orders).

Whatever you pick, though, make sure it is something that you truly feel and mean. Do not fake anything you say. If she seems more interested, then she's likely looking for someone who'll listen without judging.

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