Lauren Forcella,

DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: I work full time and live on my own while attending community college. A close friend is constantly leaning on me for emotional support around guys, school, body image, etc. I like her, but she is often depressed and can be exhausting. She’s collecting unemployment, which isn’t much, and now she wants to borrow money. While I make more than she does, I don’t feel I can help her financially. How do I say no and still keep her as a friend? — Salinas

 Carlos, 18, Fairfax, Va.: I doubt she will be offended if you tell her that paying for school and yourself doesn’t allow you to support her. Be very clear, though, or she will relapse into asking again. Friends give a shoulder to lean on and a listening ear, but once you mix in money, the friendship is at risk.

Treyvon, 19, Yorba Linda: I have undying sympathy for people who cannot afford basic human rights such as food, school, shelter and medicine. Luxury items are another matter. If she’s really in danger of being cast onto the street, by all means help her out. Otherwise, politely tell her no, and help her apply for jobs.

Ochatre, 23, Kampala, Uganda: While full-time at university, I got work at one of the best companies in Uganda — for good pay. It was very stressful and I sacrificed every minute of fun and socializing. Lots of friends showed up, many because of my money. I was the generous type, always responding to “loan” requests and other financial assistance. This usually left me disappointed since most weren’t able to pay me back and those who could usually ended our relationship instead. I finally learned to be assertive. I would assess the individual’s ability to pay me back and either say “no” or prepare a lending agreement, not lending above a certain amount. Having money shouldn’t be a source of frustration and loss of friends! Gently explain this to her. Anyone aware of the value of money will understand.

Katelyn, 18, Azusa: She depends on you emotionally, and now wants to depend on you financially? Draw the line and gently/firmly say “no.” Don’t be surprised if she distances herself.

Chris, 25, Washington, D.C.: To friends who remember their debts, I rarely have issues lending money. But if they don’t reconcile, it interferes with our relationship. It’s OK to say “no” and point her toward a job.

Brie, 22, San Francisco: Generally, if someone wants a job bad enough they get one. Confess to feeling exhausted — and explain that you’re speaking frankly because she is a close friend. If she realizes she’s being an emotional vampire and changes, she’s a good friend. Friendships must be two-way streets, otherwise they are exhausting and won’t last.

DEAR SALINAS: Friends don’t let friends take advantage of them — but they do help each other out. Your situation requires discernment. If your friend is lacking in basic needs (not luxury items), is trying hard to get work, and has no relatives who will help, saying no would be extremely callous and I hope (for her sake) that it would end the friendship. On the other hand, you give the impression she is milking unemployment while you sacrifice with hard work. For this scenario, the panel gives many good ideas for how to say no respectfully. (If she gets upset over that, let’s hope it ends the friendship for your sake.) If things aren’t this cut and dry, a modest one-time loan with a strict repayment deadline might help her till she gets work. — Lauren

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