DEAR HARRIETTE: Happenstance or convenience or whatever has caused me to spend a lot of time with a co-worker who gets on my nerves. She constantly talks about people from the moment she gets to work until she leaves in the evening. She and I are the only single people at our job, so we gravitated to each other due to our situation. We started going to happy hour sometimes, and even working out on occasion. Now I realize I can't take her endless negativity. How can I peel myself away from her without causing a rift at work? -- Running for Cover, Monticello, New York
DEAR RUNNING FOR COVER: Friendships that begin based on convenience often become fraught with challenges over time, because they are cultivated for less-than-optimal reasons. That said, you do not have to commit to hanging out with this woman for the rest of your tenure at your company. You need to wean her off of your constant interactions with care and strategy.
Think about how you would prefer to spend your time. What hobbies might you want to take up after work? Join a class but simply tell her you are busy. Don't talk about the class, because she may want to join it too. Do extra work on some days so you become unavailable to eat together. Be proactive and get to know other members of your team. Spend time cultivating bonds with your boss and other co-workers.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I am getting so tired of politics. My husband keeps some news channel on at every waking moment, and I have had it. I don't want to hear the crazy stuff coming from the White House or from the range of pundits that my husband is obsessed with watching. I have had enough. We have two kids, and I don't want them to think that our country is made up of arguments with people getting nothing done. How can I limit the onslaught of news and protect my family? -- Turn it Off, Dallas
DEAR TURN IT OFF: Talk to your husband about the importance of creating safe space at home -- meaning safe from the woes of the world, both political and violent. Ask him to agree to turn off the TV during particular hours and in specific common rooms so the children's exposure is limited.
On key occasions, talk to your children about current events so they are aware of the political landscape. Help them form their own opinions about particular political topics appropriate to their ages. Help your children understand the mechanics of the political process as well. They can have a voice, if they choose, but your home doesn't have to be ground zero for every pundit to state his or her case.