DEAR HARRIETTE: I moved to a new neighborhood a few months ago, and I am getting to know some of the people who live nearby. I learned that there is a women’s group that gets together once a month for drinks or dinner. In theory, it’s really nice. The thing is, I don’t like a couple of the women. They are very catty and sit in the corner and talk about people -- or worse, they talk about people out in the open -- when the people in question are not there. How can I befriend some of the other women without condoning that behavior? I don’t want to be a bystander and allow that kind of talk to go on in my presence. -- Fitting In, Scarsdale, New York
DEAR FITTING IN: Chances are, you cannot change the behavior of an established group. You can choose which women you like and want to get to know. You can either invite them to spend time with you separately or align yourself with them when you are at the group gatherings. When you notice that the gossipy women are revving up, if you are sitting near them you can quietly ask them to tone it down, saying it bothers you when people talk about other people. Or you can leave.
If you decide you want to remain part of the group, you may try to become part of the leadership, if such a role exists, so that you can then work with the group to implement boundaries around gossip and name-calling. You have to decide if this is a fight you want to wage.