Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Neighbors' Escalating Fights Worry Reader

DEAR HARRIETTE: I frequently hear my friend who lives in the apartment next door fighting with her boyfriend. I have seen them physically fight in the hallway through my peephole, and it is typically her who instigates this. Do I intervene in these fights? I don’t want to get them both in trouble with the law, but I am concerned for their joint safety. This relationship is dangerous for the two of them. -- Neighborly Aggression, Philadelphia

DEAR NEIGHBORLY AGGRESSION: You do not have the ability to break up a fight between your neighbors, so you should not put yourself in the middle of it. This will only make you unsafe, too. As tough as this may seem, you should call the police if you believe they are about to hurt themselves, or if they are in the midst of hurting each other.

Yes, this could lead to an awkward moment between you and your neighbor, but it is likely that you can report their behavior anonymously. You may even want to go out for a while when you report the behavior so that you are not there when the police arrive. It surely may be worth it to them for you to speak up. You would feel horrible if one of them were seriously injured or killed when you may have been able to prevent it.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I live in a home that is over 100 years old. We are undergoing a renovation project to fix the heating in the house. The workers have been leaving the door to my home open because they claim it helps save them time walking in and out of the home. The heat barely works as it is, and having doors open makes the temperature way too chilly.

These are the only professionals in my area, but I need to be firm and draw the line with them to make this project go smoothly. How do I enforce a new set of rules even though they have been working on the house for several days? -- Already Asking Nicely, Silver Spring, Maryland

DEAR ALREADY ASKING NICELY: If you are able to be in the house during the renovation, post yourself at the door for a bit. Whenever they go out, open the door for them. Whenever they come in, open the door for them. Whenever you aren’t right there, frequently go check the door and close it whenever it is open.

Also, remind the workers that you need their support in closing the door every time they go through it. Acknowledge that you know it may be easier for them to have an open-door policy, but remind them that leaving the door open is burning money, and you really want to have enough money to pay them and to stay warm in your house. Ask for their partnership in ensuring that they get paid and you stay healthy.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)