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.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I have been an entrepreneur for many years. It is often a struggle to keep things going. There is a serious ebb and flow as far as dollars go. Still, what I do whenever possible is share my resources with people I care about. For example, if I have a project where I need help, I first try to hire someone in my friend group or professional network. It’s always someone who is qualified, but I do my best to choose people I care about to hire first. Recently, this became an issue. I had hired a friend who did a good job, but she asked me to pay her more than what we agreed originally, even though the workload didn’t change. I cannot afford to pay more. The project is a small one with a tiny budget, which she knew. Because she is my friend, she is suggesting that I am taking advantage of her by paying her a low fee. How can I handle this? Should I stop hiring friends? -- Friends for Hire, Milwaukee
DEAR FRIENDS FOR HIRE: Hiring friends can be rewarding and tricky at times. What you need to do is have clear guidelines in writing about your payment practices. Whenever you hire anyone, put the terms in writing so that you agree formally before you begin the work. This way, friend or not, the employee will be clear about expectations for compensation. You should also tell friends that you are hiring them because you think they will be good for the job, not just because they are friends. Make it clear that you expect professional-grade work, and you will compensate fairly.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)