DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a friend who is generous and thoughtful, but she is also loud. She is what we call "extra." Sometimes it is hard for me to spend time around her because the volume is just too high. Well, that and she likes to gossip. I hate that. I do not like to talk about people. I like to talk about ideas and experiences. When I try to get her to talk about other things, she tries for a while, but the conversation almost always veers back to gossip. How can I maintain my friendship with her and keep my sanity as well? -- She Talks Too Much, Shreveport, Louisiana
DEAR SHE TALKS TOO MUCH: Some people are best experienced in small doses. This friend sounds like one of those. You may want to consider inviting her to participate in activities that require you to pay attention to outside stimuli so that you then have something to talk about that is different. This could mean going to a museum or watching a movie and then talking about it, joining a book club or something else that requires a different kind of focus. You can also limit how much time you spend together. It is OK to be available sometimes but not all the time. If you manage the time you spend with her and refuse to participate in gossip, you may be able to maintain your friendship.