I wrote you a while back about a graduate school classmate of mine who is much older than me and tends to over-communicate, sending text message after text message after text message and putting what I have now learned to describe as a great deal of “emotional labor” on me. I’ve graduated since that last email, and recently had a very awkward encounter with her. We both interviewed for a job that both of us really wanted. She actually hid the fact that she got her interview for the job before I got my interview, because she didn’t want to hurt my feelings. I think that’s kind of silly, since we are adults, but anyway, I got the job.
I know that me getting the job upset her, because as an over-communicator she typically responds to text messages immediately, and it took her a few hours to respond to my message that I had gotten hired. I felt bad, so I actually recommended her to an interviewer for a job that I had declined just as some sort of consolation. The truth is that I didn’t think she was cut out for the job at all, and when she responded to me about her interview experience, I felt as though she totally blew it.
Now that we are out of school, she continues to over-communicate in relation to jobs—sending text message after text message after text message, asking me to review her resume and cover letters, and texting me endlessly, it seems, about any job prospects or interview that she has. I feel so guilty about getting a job that she obviously felt she had in the sack that I respond and try to be as helpful as I can. At this point, however, we are simply going over the same things over and over again! How many times can I give her tips on a cover letter? How many times can I help with her resume? I actually even told her at one point that she could simply plagiarize one of my cover letters for a similar job. That didn’t even help. What do I do?
This woman is in her mid-40s and still lives with her parents, and I don’t think she has many close friends outside of church. I’m not religious, and I’m extremely independent—we are very different people. I just can’t seem to say no to this woman and her incredible need for attention. I feel sorry for her, and I feel like I might be her only friend. Not that we’re actually friends!
Thanks for writing in again! I remember your question, and I think I advised you to let her know when you’re not able to communicate with her, no matter how often that is. If you have to tell her after every text message that you’re busy, just do it, and eventually she’ll get the idea. Apparently you’ve done that, but she’s still up to her motor-mouth ways, even now that you’re no longer classmates. I agree that you two are just very different people with different lifestyles and communication styles, and I also agree that it’s probably her isolation that drives her to continually reach out to you.
But you don’t have time for that, and you certainly don’t have time for all this childish meddling and worry around finding work. She’s in her 40s, and it’s her responsibility, not yours. Also, you don’t owe her your time or your ear in exchange for getting a job that she wanted.
At this point, I’d recommend cutting her off. Send her an email or text explaining that you’re working and busy now, and that you’re not available for all this back-and-forth. After that, stop responding to her altogether. I know it sounds harsh, but I feel like she’s choosing to ignore your cues about needing space. She’s being pushy and trying to force your friendship, and that never works. You don’t want to be her friend—hell, you stated very plainly that you’re not her friend. If she’s not willing to consciously back off, you should just take yourself out of the equation. Emotional labor is draining, and you’ve done enough.
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