What to do with a friend who’s told you difficult information

Cinderrella asks: My friend just told me today about her family problems. I don’t know why, but now suddenly I feel bad for her and I don’t know how to act towards her anymore. Should I ignore it and go back to the way things were? Wouldn’t that be selfish of me?

Hi Cinderrella –


Your problem is a really common one.  You’ve had a certain way of dealing with your friend for a long time – probably very casual, friendly, maybe joking.  And suddenly she told you something really serious about her life, and now you don’t know how to act with her.


The tough part of this is that it was probably very hard for her to talk to you about these problems, and while you didn’t mean it this way, your actions might look like you’re upset with her for her openness.  Maybe that you don’t believe her, or think she’s making it all up, or even that you’re angry with her.  And all because you’re trying not to be selfish!


I think the best thing you can do is to be completely honest with her.  To tell her that you’re confused and don’t know how to act with her.  Tell her that you care about her and want to do what’s best, but that you don’t know if you should act like nothing’s wrong or… like something is.


When Handsome was in college, a friend of his went through a really painful breakup with her boyfriend.  And she found that the perfect way to deal with it was to spend half her free time with Handsome, where she’d cry and open up about everything, and half her time with another person who avoided the subject completely!  She really needed both.  So one thing you could do is to ask your friend just who she needs you to be these days.  Maybe she wants you being all serious and concerned, or silly and frivolous, or (most likely I’d guess) a mix of both.


But what matters most is that you let her know that you still care about her, and that there was nothing wrong in her telling you this tough news.  That’s what will keep your friendship great.


Thanks.  You’re a very good friend!




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