3 Times to Ignore People

Rachel Beohm
6 min readFeb 22, 2022

Ignoring people is rude… usually. Here are three times when it’s the most appropriate and helpful response, and how to do it respectfully.

Your undivided attention is a priceless and meaningful gift. In this age of overwhelming distraction, even a few minutes of focused attention can build rapport, trust, and connection.

Because your time and attention are so valuable, be judicious. Sometimes it’s both healthy and helpful to avoid giving attention in specific circumstances. Certain behaviors can drain you of your mental or emotional resources; you can choose not to spend your resources on them.

Note, however, that it’s behaviors that you ignore, not people. Yes, by ignoring the behavior you are also ignoring the person — however, it’s temporary. If you find yourself ignoring someone all the time, there may be a bigger relationship problem you need to face.

After all, this isn’t elementary school. I’m not suggesting you turn up your nose at a coworker or employee and say, “I’m not playing with you.” (Or whatever grown-up equivalent you devise.) Neither am I suggesting that you passive-aggressively give the silent treatment without actually addressing the real issue. Those types of ignoring don’t benefit anyone, least of all you.

Knowing when and how to ignore someone is an art. When you master this art, you’ll find you have more peace in your life and relationships, and more energy and attention to devote to what matters. Below, you’ll find three times when it’s in your best interests to ignore someone’s behavior and how to do so without hurting feelings or damaging the relationship.

1. Ignore disruptive behavior.

If someone interrupts your conversation or presentation, hold up your hand to signal that you heard and are not ready to respond. Nod if you like, but don’t make eye contact. Continue speaking or listening to the person or group you were previously interacting with.

Some interruptions are valid and necessary. You have to decide who and what gets your attention. If the interruption is important, deal with it. When it is simply disruptive, distracting, or self-centered, avoid intensifying the behavior by noticing it. In particular, when you are in charge of a group as a leader…

Rachel Beohm

Exploring relationship skills, communication (especially nonverbal), and how to live a full life. Promoter of kindness, gratitude, and joy.