The problem: A good friend just asked me if she could borrow money. She didn’t tell me how much or why. She wants to have coffee soon to talk about it. Should I go?

Low road: You don’t have to. You could say with a laugh that you could never afford that cup of joe, or explain breezily that you never lend money to anyone you feel close to, because things often get messy. Then quickly change the subject.

 

High road: Have coffee with her.

You call her a “good friend.” Something potentially troubling is up with your good friend. Maybe her work hours were cut or, worse, she’s being canned. Maybe she’s starting to panic about student loans coming due, or she’s eating too many lunches out. Worse, maybe she’s secretly in an abusive situation or developing an expensive addiction, legal or otherwise, that is sucking her finances dry.

Having coffee with your friend doesn’t require you to bring your checkbook or ATM card. Do bring your compassion. Hear her out. Gently ask a lot of follow-up questions. It might take a while to get to the bottom of her real struggle. If you feel confident that this is a one-time setback and you want to help her, write a check for an amount that won’t sting you, and emphasize that you can help only this once. (Then help only this once.)

If, on the other hand, you sense that your friend is in deep, your greatest value is helping connect her to debt-reduction, domestic-abuse or addiction-recovery resources in your community.

 

Send questions about life’s little quandaries to gail.rosenblum@startribune.com.