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A FRIENDLY REMINDER TO EVALUATE YOUR ACQUAINTANCES

Are you the friend everybody loves to hate?

We've all got a friend, or even friends, who just don't get it. No matter what the situation, they always seem to turn it around so it's about them. The common denominator in bad friend behavior is self-absorption. But the symptoms manifest themselves differently in different folks.

I'm always in favor of giving people the benefit of the doubt, but some people just don't have a clue. In the spirit of helping us all be better friends, here are six friends nobody needs. You can cut them or cope, depending on the severity of their behavior.

The Whiner. It's always a problem, and it's always happening to her. Nobody knows the troubles she's seen, but you better believe we're gonna hear about it. If your mother's lying in a hospital bed, dying, but your friend has just had a fight with hers, guess who's going to monopolize the conversation?

Before you write her off, take a deep breath and remember whining is usually just a bid for attention from somebody who doesn't know how to get it any other way.

Next time she starts, tell her you'd rather hear about what's going right with her life. And if she doesn't have an answer, direct her to this great new Web site: www.FindATherapist.com.

The Leech. He invites you over for a few beers and when you get there, you find yourself refinishing his deck. Or she asks you what you're doing tomorrow and when you say "nothing," she says, "Great, I need somebody to watch my kids."

If they're not borrowing your best blouse or your power tools, they're asking you to feed their dog. They can't (or won't) cope with their own lives, so they parcel off portions of it to everyone else.

The answer: Say no early and often. They'll either quit asking so much, or they'll drop you and you'll know they prefer having a servant over having a friend.

The Yakker. Thank God for caller ID. These people missed their calling as a carnival barker. Is she a friend or a monologue looking for a place to land? You could put down the phone for an hour, and she wouldn't miss a beat.

You can try giving her a muzzle -- and if any of my pals are reading, for the record, I think I would look good in pink. But the most effective strategy is to imitate her behavior. Since Yakkers often assume that talking over people is a natural conversation style, they may have been wondering why you've waited so long to jump in.

The Busy Bee. She's the PTA president, party organizer and domestic diva -- and you are but a blip on her overscheduled radar screen. You may think she's too busy for you, but the person she's really too busy for is herself.

Most overachievers got the message early on that they're the sum of their work, and nobody will like them if they slow down. You might want to remind them what friendship is really about. Imagine the look on their Type-A faces when you say, "I find your innermost thoughts fascinating, but your massive to-do list bores me to tears."

The Adviser. This one offers a steady stream of unsolicited feedback -- kind of like a mother-in-law. Whether they're trying to prove how smart they are or start their own counseling business, this friend has the answer for everything.

Lots of nodding and murmurs of "I'll think about it" are an easy out. But if he or she is really getting under your skin, say, "I'm so glad I have you to tell me what to do. My life would be a mess if you weren't trying to run it." Smile while you're saying it, and they might not hit you.

The Bragger. The message: Been there, done that and done it way better than you. When she's not talking about her children, her house or her husband, she's describing her banking career and her fabulous backhand. Men braggers often are tolerated more than women, but I find them equally annoying. They don't understand the difference between friendship and competition.

All they really want is kudos from you, so just let them have it. Fawn on about all their great stuff, and when you're ready for them to shut up, tell them how you just love being bad at tennis, because losing to you helps all those insecure people feel better. And thank heaven for Salvation Army, or your kids would be running around naked.

Life is too short to have -- or to be -- a bad friend. If you found yourself on the list, straighten up and fly right. And if this list reminds you of anybody you know, dump away.

e-mail: lisa@forgetperfect.com