Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Reader Accidentally Sees Friend's Abusive Message

DEAR HARRIETTE: I was recently using my friend’s laptop, and a message from her boyfriend came up on the top right corner. I did not open it to read it in its entirety, but it appeared as though he was being emotionally abusive and gaslighting her in the message. How do I tell her about his manipulative techniques without my friend getting mad at me for reading her messages? -- Faux Beau, Milwaukee

DEAR FAUX BEAU: This may be a time that it is worth it for your friend to possibly be mad at you. Talk to her about what you read. Set it up carefully. Tell her that you were using her laptop when the message popped up, and you saw it. While you did not mean to break privacy, you did see the message, and it concerns you. Tell her how upset her boyfriend’s message made you because it got you worried that he is mistreating her. Ask your friend if she would like to talk about it. Ask if she is OK. Pledge that you will support her in any way that you can.

For your emotional health, know that you cannot get your friend to walk away from this man. It is completely up to her what she does next. Even if she chooses not to talk to you for a while given your breach of privacy, know that you did your part by commenting on what you saw.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My friends are in their mid-20s and experiencing their “last hurrah” with partying. They have been doing hard drugs. I recently had a relative pass away due to a drug overdose, so their behavior makes me scared. How do I tell them that this “last hurrah” is much more dangerous than they think? I don’t think they’ve ever had someone close to them overdose. -- Not a Party, New Orleans

DEAR NOT A PARTY: When people are immersed in drug use, they usually cannot hear others who are begging them to stop. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try. If you can be in your friends’ company at a time when they are sober, that’s your best chance of being heard. See if you can schedule breakfast or some other early activity with them.

When face to face, ask if you can speak directly to them. With their blessing, express your extreme concern for their well-being. Tell them that you know they are doing hard drugs, and you are worried for their lives. Explain that this may seem like fun now, but their behavior could kill them. Then tell them about your relative who died from an overdose. Tell them in detail who this relative was, what kind of life he had before getting involved with drugs and what the person’s demise looked like. Be graphic so that there is no question about how tragic your relative’s death was. Plead with your friends to get help so that they can stop. Tell them how much you love them and do not want to see them die.

(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.)