How To Ignore Someone: Ways To Keep From Engaging Conflict

By Darby Faubion|Updated September 1, 2022

You often hear the advice that you should not avoid conflict, and that it will make a disagreement worse in the long run. However, that advice is best applied if the person you are experiencing conflict with is important to your personal life or plays a major role in another aspect of your life. In those cases, yes, you need to find a way to resolve your conflict with that person, and ignoring it is not going to help.

While there are times when avoiding a person altogether may be the best way to avoid conflict, avoidance is not always an option. Learning when to ignore someone and when/how to engage in healthy conflict are essential parts of communication. Of course, if you’re in an unsafe relationship or dealing with an extremely rude person, it may be beneficial to you to learn ways to ignore someone.

In this article, we’ll discuss what to do when you feel the need to ignore a person in your life.

What Are Good Reasons To Ignore a Person?

Want To Become An Expert At Ignoring People Who Annoy You?

Simply ignoring someone because you are not in the mood to talk is not mature behavior for any person. In fact, it’s a huge sign of avoidance. However, there are times when ignoring someone may be the only way to avoid engaging in conflict or making an existing situation potentially damaging. If any of the following occur, if it's possible, ignore the person. Here are some tips from our article to help you out:

  • If someone is purposely trying to annoy you, engaging them may lead to the situation getting out of hand. If you choose to ignore their rude or damaging behavior, most people become bored and leave you alone. If they continue to pester you, or your actions lead to more conflict, try seeking out a different space to separate yourself from them.
  • Do not engage someone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol if they are being pushy, disrespectful, or aggressive. Someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol will have an altered state of mind and may not be willing or fully able to listen to what you have to say. It is very easy for these situations to escalate into an altercation that could be emotionally or physically harmful.
  • Your time should never be spent on a person who disregards your feelings. If someone disrespects you or talks negatively to or about you, stay away from them. Of course, take time to assess other perspectives as well, if possible – what was the discussion about? In what tone was it said? Were their words truly disrespectful or rude toward you or was the intent constructive criticism? Keep these things in mind, but certainly, someone who utterly disregards you does not have your best interests in mind and does not respect the relationship between you.
  • Any person who is known to be violent toward others should be avoided. Risking your safety to communicate with someone who is likely to instigate a conflict can have dangerous consequences, and it can end up hurting you greatly. Remember, a person’s behavior is not a reflection of you.

Ways To Ignore Someone And Avoid Engaging In Conflict

While there are times when avoiding someone and giving the silent treatment is easy, other times may be difficult. For example, it’s not the best idea to start ignoring someone in your professional life, especially if that person is your boss. If you go to school or church or work with someone whom you prefer not to talk to, ignoring them might be a little harder than avoiding someone whom you rarely see. Some of the following tips are ways that you may be able to ignore someone and prevent conflict with that person.

  • Stay away from the person. Avoid situations in which you know that the other person is going to be present in the same space as you. If you work with the person, it may be difficult to avoid them altogether, but when possible, keep your distance and try not to engage them.
  • Avoid eye contact with the person. This goes against what most people are taught regarding communication, body language, and eye contact. However, when it comes to avoiding conflict, it is necessary. When you make eye contact with someone, they will know that you are aware of their presence. The person may choose to try to engage you in conversation, which could turn problematic. Avoiding eye contact when you’re in the same room may make the other person think that you haven't noticed them, and they may leave without attempting to talk to you. Remember, your body language communicates the words you don’t speak.

  • Give the person the appearance of being busy. If you need to use your phone, computer, or begin talking to someone else, the other person may think you don't have time to speak with them. Act like you’re just full of normal life tasks, and they’ll likely assume you’re busy.
  • Block the other person on your phone and any social media accounts. While being ignored may ignite the fire of frustration for some, it may at least buy you some time to gather your thoughts and consider how to address the conflict. Anything constructive that you can do to remove the person's presence from your life will help create a more peaceful atmosphere for you while you figure things out. If someone is being annoying and sending messages to talk at all hours of the day, it’s okay to ignore them. Don’t feel bad for setting a boundary that is essential to your well-being.

When There Is Conflict in the Workplace With Another Person

It can be very frustrating to feel conflict at work, particularly when it impacts your ability to complete tasks. Ideally, finding a resolution to the conflict would be in the best interest of everyone involved. However, when conflict is not quickly resolved, there are some measures to help reduce its stressful effects while at work. For example:

  • Be cooperative with the person when you can. Even when you feel as though you are right, it's not always necessary to have everyone else acknowledge that. It's okay to be cooperative and respectful without giving in to the demands of someone who is being obstinate. In fact, your employer and other co-workers or friends at work will probably appreciate your attitude, particularly if the person of concern is known for being troublesome or “annoying.”
  • Create a workspace that is conducive to productivity. Although you may make friends at work, your main priority is to be productive and get a job done. If possible, set your workspace up in a manner that provides you with as much privacy as possible. Try to avoid engaging in communication with anyone who may distract you or add to the conflict. This will also help to keep your mind off of the conflict and generate a more peaceful mindset that will be better able to appropriately deal with said conflict when needed. Apply this to school and work relationships with any person.
  • Know when it's time to call in reinforcements against this person. In this article, when we say "reinforcements," we don't mean the gossiping co-workers who are quick to add fuel to the fire. Gossip may feel initially validating, but it generally serves to overall worsen attitudes and situations as nothing is being properly dealt with. When a conflict feels overwhelming, or if you feel it may get out of hand, talk to your supervisor. Be honest about the situation and ask for their advice. Communicate. Don't be afraid to reach out to those in management, as you’re supposed to have a healthy professional relationship. Employers would prefer potentially problematic situations to be resolved and have distance before they get out of hand. Your transparency about these types of issues reflects honesty and integrity that your employer should, without question, appreciate.

Remember, if the person is acting violently, trying to hurt you physically, or has threatened you in any way, call 911 immediately.

Seeking Help

Want To Become An Expert At Ignoring People Who Annoy You?

You may find solace talking to a friend or loved one who is neutral and non-biased regarding the situations discussed in this article with any person in your life. If you are struggling with conflict with a person (or people) at work, school, or home and want to learn ways to develop strong communication skills and get to the point, but are not ready to meet someone face-to-face, online counseling is a great option.

Online therapy has been found to be just as effective as in-person therapy, with 94% of users saying that they prefer it to seeing a licensed therapist in person. In 2019, 40.2 million adults sought out and received mental health services, a notable increase of 13 million compared to data collected in 2002.

Online counseling services, such as those provided by BetterHelp, have helped to make that possible. Remote therapy allows individuals to talk with qualified, licensed mental health professionals when and where it is most convenient, and often at a cheaper price. It’s accessible to those even in remote or rural locations who normally would have a difficult time finding and obtaining mental healthcare. Below are some reviews of BetterHelp counselors that relate to this article, from people seeking help with managing conflict and communication.

Article Counselor Reviews

"Brian has helped me immensely in the 5 months since I joined BetterHelp. I feel completely comfortable with him and appreciate that he also feels comfortable sharing his honest thoughts with me. I have noticed a change in my attitude, confidence, and communication skills as a result of our sessions. I feel like he is constantly giving me the tools I need to improve my overall wellbeing and personal contentment.

"We went into couples counseling not knowing what to expect but hoping for the best. While it took a few sessions to get acclimated to the experience we soon found that Heather made us feel at ease about the process and helped us dive into some of the things we were struggling with. Over several weeks my boyfriend and I have been invested in this process and following Heather's advice as well as reflecting on her insights. We are communicating so much better and have been able to avoid frequent, trivial arguments and spend more time connecting, listening, and working through conflicts. I highly recommend Heather to other couples who may be working through similar issues.”

Conclusion

When faced with a challenging situation, such as conflict with another person, it can often feel overwhelming. When you are dealing with conflict, knowing when to ignore someone and avoid conflict or when to address it directly isn't always easy. With the right tools, learning effective communication and conflict resolution skills is within reach.

Commonly Asked Questions About This Topic

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about this topic.

How do you ignore someone naturally?

There is no one “natural” way to ignore someone. There’s always a chance that it could be awkward or that someone gets hurt. At times, it’s best to ask yourself if dealing with the conflict is actually worse than hurting someone’s feelings by refusing them the chance for communication.

It’s true, sometimes people are “annoying,” or you’re busy, or ignoring someone feels better than bad-mouthing them to their face. However, if you’re able to respond and give someone a message expressing your need and speaking from a place of compassion, you may find that you reduce the chance of hurt and get straight to the point.

If you do need a way to ignore someone and feel it would be wrong to talk about the situation with them, there are ways to naturally take distance. Here’s how to ignore someone kindly:

  • Use the tips in the article above
  • Avoid running into the friend or person at school, work, or in public
  • Walk in the other direction if you see them approaching you
  • Have a conversation with someone you trust about how the other person’s behavior makes you feel
  • Decide on a course of action. Will you block them? Will you reach out in a few weeks? Will you catch up at school when the conflict has worn off and you’ve gone back to your normal lives?

Is it okay to ignore someone?

It’s always okay to have a personal boundary but know that you cannot control whether or not someone gets hurt. It’s okay to feel bad that you’re ignoring someone, as well. Choosing to ignore someone is not an easy decision, but it sometimes needs to be done. However, consider trying to talk through your needs before shutting someone out if you’re not in danger.

If you feel that someone just has an annoying presence or rubs you the wrong way, it’s okay to set an example for how you want to be treated by friends and acquaintances. However, it’s also not hard to talk for a few moments and let someone know that you aren’t ignoring them but need them to take a step back.

For example, here are a few things you can say to a friend that is pushing your boundaries at school and acting with behavior that you don’t like:

  • “I don’t like when you act like this around me, and I need you to treat me better if you want to talk about this.”
  • “I don’t like your behavior lately, and I need some time to think about what I want.”
  • “I’m not ignoring you; I just need space for a while. I’m really busy with my own life right now.”
  • “I’m upset that you don’t seem to value my life goals and want me to drop everything at school to hang out with you. I’m a kind person but I need some space to focus on my own life right now. Let’s talk later.”

If a person still doesn’t leave you alone after you have set a boundary, follow the other tips in this article to distance yourself from them. Remember, if a person doesn’t respect your boundaries, they’re not someone who respects you as a person. 

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