The Internet Is Obsessed With… This Woman’s Out Of Office To Her Friends

Is it OK to tell your friends, 'I don’t think I can hold appropriate space for you'?

The Internet Is Obsessed With… This Woman's Out Of Office To Her Friends

by Rebecca Reid |
Updated on

We’ve all had days when we’re tired, grumpy and done with the world, when the only thing that seem appealing is inhaling a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and watching an episode of Friends for the eleventybillionth time.

It is inevitably in those moments that you phone lights up. Your best friend is having a row with her boyfriend, your sister is in an argument with her landlord. Your WhatsApp group of work friends are complaining about your new CEO. And while you would really like to put your phone on silent and enjoy the warm embrace of the duvet, instead you put your own wants aside and answer the messages or the phone call, to give comfort and advice.

Not so, however, if you follow the advice of Melissa A Fabello PhD, a US-based writer and ‘wellness educator’, who set the internet alight when she shared a suggested message to send to friends who need emotional labour from you when you’re not in the mood. A sort of emotional out-of-office reply, if you will.

Fabello tweeted: ‘Someone reached out and asked for an example of how you can respond to someone if you don’t have the space to support them. I offered this template.’

The template reads: Hey! I’m so glad you reached out. I’m actually at capacity dealing with someone else who’s in crisis / dealing with some personal stuff right now and I don’t think I can hold appropriate space for you. Could we connect at [later date or time] instead/ Do you have someone else who you can reach out to?’

So, is this a brilliant way to prevent burning out through being a support system to too many people? Or is it the absolute zenith of modern selfishness, only offering support when it’s suitable to you? The internet is deeply divided.

Presumably Fabello didn’t predict the absolute landslide of responses, both from those who loved the message and those who were outraged by it.

‘Yes yes yes yes to all of this, I am so lucky that the closest people around me practice this kind of communication and mutual respect, especially as I navigate my highly sensitive personality through life. Boundaries are love,’ said one reply.

But not everyone was convinced. ‘This is honest to God awful. What an insensitive, selfish & terrible thing to write to anyone. You can't send this [to] somebody who needs your help. Using floundering language like "capacity" "space" etc is so horribly detached. If they had someone else to go, y would they come to you! [sic]’ said another.

As is so often the case with these viral arguments, there probably isn’t a right or a wrong. It’s OK to need space and not to have the bandwidth to help someone out any time day or night. It’s also fair to expect the people who love you to inconvenience themselves somewhat in order to support you in times of need.

Of course because this is the internet, alongside the earnest discussion about boundaries in friendship there were lots of jokes.

Let us know what you think about this whole saga on Twitter or Instagram, @graziaUK.

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