Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Boorish Neighbor Lacks Boundaries

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a neighbor who is annoying, to say the least. She talks too much and is extremely loud and intrusive. I am a loner and rarely have company. She will ring my bell at all hours of the day and night and barge in because she wants somebody to talk to, or she wants a drink and is all out at her apartment. I don't want to have to let her in, but she is insistent. Sometimes she will bang on the door until it disturbs the other neighbors if I don't answer.

How can I get her to respect my boundaries? I don't want to nix her completely, but she can't just come over whenever she feels like it. -- INTRUSIVE NEIGHBOR

DEAR INTRUSIVE NEIGHBOR: What an awkward situation! When people live near those who have no sense of boundaries, it can be extremely uncomfortable for them to create space around themselves. It is going to take you being uncomfortable for a bit in order to get comfortable for the long term.

The best thing you can do is to speak to her directly and tell her that she is disturbing your peace. Tell her that she can no longer visit you uninvited. If she tries to get around your decision, tell her you will no longer answer the door.

You must accept a reality: You do not need to answer your door just because someone knocks on it. You can simply not answer. As uncomfortable as that seems, you can do it. If your neighbor gets loud and surrounding neighbors get upset, one of them may chime in to ask this person to stop or go home. You can also speak to her through the door and let her know that it is not a good time for her to visit. If she gets completely out of control, you can call the police, though I would leave police involvement to the most extreme of circumstances. You can report a noise violation by calling 311.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My in-laws are extremely judgmental. I get nervous sometimes because they will say anything, including talking about people when they are in the room. We had a family dinner recently, and many people were there. One of my cousins is extremely overweight. You guessed it. My mother-in-law lit into her when she went to get some dessert.

I know it would be smart for my cousin to skip dessert, but it was not my mother-in-law's place to reprimand her. She felt differently. When I tried to change the subject, she went in on her even more, harping about how she is killing herself. Whether her words are true or not, they were grossly inappropriate at this meal in front of a bunch of people. How can I get her to stop? Or should I just stop inviting her places? -- NEED A MUZZLE

DEAR NEED A MUZZLE: It is hard to change behavior, especially in a mature adult. But what you can do is decide what you are willing to accept or not. Talk to your spouse about the behavior of their parents and ask for support. Whatever you do will require a united front from both of you. You may want to talk to your in-laws together and let them know how hurtful your mother-in-law's comments were to your cousin.

But more effective may be to talk to them and let them know that if they cannot curb their disrespectful comments, you will have to curb their visits. You will probably need to limit the occasions that you get together with them to times when there are few people present and when you are willing to speak up and ask them to stop when they cross the line.

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