I know someone from a chat service I am on. We are not close friends; in fact, we barely know each other.

We ended up in a brief private message. In a tangent related to what was being discussed in chat at the time, in which I was only vaguely participating, they began to dump medical history, anxieties, insecurities, concerns, ongoing struggles, major life events, and traumas to me. This came out of the blue, and was entirely unexpected. I didn't invite this, and it has now happened multiple times.

I am not emotionally equipped to support them. I'd want to - they definitely need some kind of support. But I would be grossly overextending myself in doing so, and I can't put time or energy into it. Additionally, many of these things are not actionable. There's nothing to do about it - it's just venting. But it's venting that gives them panic attacks, and which they're not dealing with in a healthy way.

On top of this, I'm already in support relationships with too many others. As a result, as unfortunate as it is, I have to draw a line: my private messages are not open for me to support them. I might still chime in if there's something specific and tangible I could help with, and I see it elsewhere. But otherwise... I can't do this job.

I need to send this signal to them in a plain and clear way. I want to do it in a way that doesn't hurt them - make them feel rejected, like they're a burden, or otherwise worsen their current state. If I felt that simply not responding would do that, I'd go for it. But I don't think it will. So I have to say something, but I have no idea what.

What can I do in this situation to signal that I'm not open to hearing and supporting this at this time, in a way that's reasonably sensitive to their currently fragile state?

3 Answers 3


One technique that is useful in situations such as yours is to speak only about yourself and how you feel about supporting anyone rather than why you can't support them specifically. Now there is no sure way to communicate what you want without any chance of them being hurt as everyone is different and they are fragile; but this is one of the better ways.

An example of what you might say after they mention {X} struggle:

I'm sorry I just really can't handle talking about X with anyone. I have found that when I do, it weighs really heavily on me. I have been trying to stay positive recently and its important to me that I keep it up as best I can.

If they understand that your reason is purely about yourself, then any feelings of self loathing/blame or suspicions that they are being targeted will hopefully be less likely to arise. By not mentioning them personally in your reason, the idea is that they will find it easier to not take it personally and understand what you are saying by looking at it from a rational perspective instead.


I think that you answer your own question. "I am not emotionally equipped to support them. I'd want to - they definitely need some kind of support." You've already said it. I understand you want to not appear harsh; this answer, worded properly, can get the point across.

People are both more connected and more isolated from one another, courtesy of the internet. We chat with others online and take advice from complete strangers on the internet. Yet we don't really have friends we spend actual time with. So people tend to overshare. I suspect this person is doing that as well - oversharing.

Probably the best response is based on what you feel. It's honest and not rejecting the person; it establishes a boundary. "It sounds like you really need some support. Unfortunately I'm not in a position to be that person; I'm really sorry about that but I'm not equipped for this role." And leave it go there. You take accountability for a role you can't engage in and talk about yourself, not the other person. If they get insistent on treating you as a counselor, you may need to repeat this.


A woman asks me out. I'm not interested, but I want to tell her in a way that doesn't make her feel rejected. How can I do it?

It is an impossible question. They want something from you, you are refusing to give it. That's what rejection is. Own it. To me, not wanting them to feel rejected -- that is, feel what is actually happening -- is a lot like lying. The truth is often scary to say, but in the long term it is often the least painful thing. Your honest rejection is already a kindness -- you are allowing them to recoup the energy that they spent on you and put it somewhere they will actually get the support they need.

But there's no magic, just be truthful and (as another answer pointed out) talk about yourself. Here's a try, using my own voice, based on what you said.

<Name>, I'm sorry you're having a hard time right now. After some reflection, I've realized that I don't have the space in my life to give the kind of support I think you are asking for. I am sorry. hug

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