DEAR HARRIETTE: I feel like I've gotten caught up in a web of conversations between different friends where they are all talking about each other in one way or another. I fear that I am getting sucked into these little chats and finding that I am voicing unkind and sometimes mean-spirited comments, mainly because we are talking about these people all the time. I don't want to be party to this. How can I get my friends to stop this? Or should I just stop talking to them? -- All Talked Out, Ann Arbor, Mich.
DEAR ALL TALKED OUT: One of the best quotes I have ever read is from Eleanor Roosevelt, who said, "Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people."
You are wise to recognize that the conversations you have been having are not serving you or your friends. Rather than "divorcing" your friends straight away, talk to them. Tell them that you feel extremely uncomfortable about the path that your conversations have taken of late. Explain that you are friends with them in the first place because you value their thoughts and creativity. Point out that you feel you have been weighted down by gossiping and that you believe this is derailing all of you from the opportunity to really enjoy your time together. Tell them that you do not want to gossip anymore. Ask them to pledge alongside you that you will stop talking about people whenever you realize that you are doing it.