If you tell people you have a problem, they will try to help you with it.
Don’t talk about your problems unless you want help, specifically stating what help you need, even if the only help you need is patience. When people tell you that they have problems, don’t fall into the trap of trying to troubleshoot without first asking what kind of specific help, if any, you can give them.
Always ask if people need help when they broadcast their problems; this will address many a dilemma—the manipulator trying to blackmail through guilt, the complaining gossiper addicted to bad news, and the person who really does need help. If you ask, but the person keeps talking about the problem, make your best guess and give the person a referral, either a professional’s phone number or a book title or something else of the sort that fits your guess. Don’t let anyone complain indefinitely; complaints and problems must be resolved—and it remains everyone’s responsibility to help each other with mutual dignity, swiftness, and giving whatever space and encouragement we each need to get through the normal challenges in life.
By taking everything literally and always being respectful, you won’t need to read people’s minds to know how to respond.
In general, don’t talk about your problems and don’t talk long with people who often do. Keep your problems to yourself, explain the short version so people know what they need to know without hearing your life story. If you don’t need help, don’t talk like you do.
When troubled, be diplomatic, say that you are having a crazy day—but that you are getting through alright; find a way to manage and act like everything is okay. In doing this, you will uncover hidden strength as someone others can depend on. God will often send you secret help that only you know about and other people will never know your car had catastrophic, spontaneous engine failure, only that you were five minutes late in your crazy day, but you kept smiling and politely apologized for your tardiness.
One day you may truly need help. So, keep a reputation for not broadcasting your problems.