I struggle with the old “does this person want help or are they just venting?” problem. And of course you can ask them, but in my experience, people feel pressured to say they want advice even if they don’t. The average person is embarrassed to answer with “I don’t want your help, I just want to complain.”
So I have a rule: when in doubt, assume they’re venting. Nobody wants to say “stop helping me, I’m just venting.” But it’s easy for them to say “so what should I do?”
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