Making Your Limits Known: Setting Boundaries with Someone Who Ignores You

Thursday, June 13

Boundaries are a way to set limits that help protect your emotional and mental well-being. But that only works if other people respect those boundaries. If someone ignores you — whether that’s a family member, friend, co-worker, or boss — how can you set limits that they’ll follow?

Handling this kind of situation may be tricky. But knowing how to deal with people who ignore you and how to establish boundaries with them may be helpful. In the following sections, we’ll explore healthy boundaries and what to do if someone ignores them. 

How do you deal with someone who ignores you?

Is a loved one or someone else in your life giving you the cold shoulder or silent treatment? This kind of passive-aggressive behavior may be hurtful. But ignoring them in return or confronting them in an angry manner won’t help.

So, what can you do about being treated this way? Below, we’ll go over some steps to follow in order to deal with someone who ignores you. 

Evaluate the relationship 

Taking a close look at the relationship in question can help you determine the best way to approach the situation. Is the person ignoring you a loved one, like a family member or close friend? Or is it an acquaintance you interact with often, such as a neighbor? Is it someone in your professional life, such as a supervisor or colleague? 

Examine the value and dynamics of the relationship. The best approach to the situation might look very different depending on how close you are to the other person or how often you interact with them. 

For example, your approach to dealing with a boss who ignores you is likely to be very different from handling a friend or sibling who ignores you. 

Reflect on possible reasons 

Think about why the person might be ignoring you. Is it possible they’re preoccupied with dealing with their own stressful situations or events? Did something change recently in your relationship with them? Do they have a history of treating you this way, or is it a more recent behavior on their part? What kind of personality do they have? Do they display narcissistic tendencies that might explain their behavior toward you?

You might not know the exact reason. But coming up with possible reasons may help you decide how to approach the situation. For example, if you believe you might have unintentionally hurt their feelings, you might use a more compassionate approach.

Prepare to set and communicate boundaries 

Consistently being ignored may take a toll on your well-being and self-worth. Identifying personal boundaries to set with someone who has been ignoring you can help protect your emotional wellness. 

You might decide to set a boundary about your personal space, such as not allowing the other person to invade it. Or your boundary might have to do with time, your emotions, or other areas where conflict or issues keep occurring in this relationship. 

After deciding which boundaries to set, plan how to articulate them, so that the other person clearly understands what you’re asking for. Keep your personal boundaries clear and specific, rather than vague. 

Consider giving space 

In some cases, taking a step back and giving yourself some space from the other person may be helpful. This may help de-escalate tension between you so that you can engage in a productive conversation about your relationship or interactions. 

Giving the other person space also provides them with a chance to reflect on their behavior. They may think about why they’ve been treating you this way. They might also think about ways to change or improve the relationship or interactions so that they don’t go back to ignoring you. 

Adjust your expectations 

Having realistic expectations about the other person’s behavior may help you avoid difficult emotions, like feeling hurt, frustrated, or disappointed. Adjust these expectations based on factors like how close you are to the person, how long you’ve known them, and what their personality is like. Also, consider if this behavior is a more recent thing or if they have a history of acting like this toward you. 

For example, if the person is a co-worker who has been ignoring your boundaries for a couple of years, their behavior may not change. They might not feel motivated to do anything about the issue if they’re not close to you. In this case, you might focus on limiting your interactions with them at work if possible. 

If it’s a good friend, though, they may be more motivated to work on improving the relationship. In this case, you might expect a more positive outcome — even if it takes time.

What do healthy boundaries look like?

Setting boundaries is easier if you know what healthy ones look like. Remember that these limits are supposed to help protect your emotional and mental wellness. They’re not opportunities to tell other people how to behave or what to do. They let others know what you find acceptable in your interactions with them — and what you won’t tolerate. 

Examples of healthy boundaries include the following:

  • Respect for personal space and privacy 
  • Emotional independence or responsibility for one’s own emotions
  • Disagreements without insults or personal attacks 
  • Time for self-care 
  • Respect for personal belongings 
  • Respect for individuality in relationships 

How to establish boundaries with someone who consistently ignores you

When someone has a habit of ignoring you, setting boundaries with them may be challenging. But it’s possible to do so with the right approach. Keep in mind that ultimately, you can’t control what others do. You can control how you react to boundary violations and how you handle the relationship in question. 

In the sections below, we’ll walk you through the steps involved in establishing boundaries with someone who keeps ignoring you. 

1.  Identify your boundaries 

What personal limits are essential for your emotional and mental well-being? Thinking about this is how you identify your boundaries. Keep in mind that you can set different types of boundaries, such as time boundaries, emotional boundaries, sexual boundaries, physical boundaries, or material boundaries. 

In which areas are you experiencing issues? What kinds of struggles do you have when interacting with the person ignoring your boundaries? Having a clear idea of your personal boundaries is important in order for you to effectively communicate them.  

2.  Prepare the conversation 

Having a conversation about setting healthy boundaries with someone who ignores you isn’t a good time to improvise. Carefully planning ahead of time may help this conversation go more smoothly. Since these discussions may be stressful, it’s also important to be mentally and emotionally prepared. 

Drafting key points to cover during the conversation may be helpful. This gives you notes to look over while getting ready to have this discussion with the other person. Practicing what you’ll say might also help. Try to use “I” statements to avoid making the other person feel defensive. 

For example, you might say, “I feel upset when you invade my personal space” instead of “You make me angry when you invade my personal space.”  

3.  Have the conversation at the right time 

The right setting is another key factor in having an effective conversation about boundaries with someone who ignores you. Pick a place that’s appropriate for this kind of discussion, such as somewhere quiet and private rather than a loud, public setting.  

Avoid trying to set boundaries right after a conflict with the other person or when you’re mad at them. Choose a time when you’re feeling calm and in control of your emotions. 

4.  Prepare for their response (or lack thereof)

When you’re trying to establish boundaries with someone who tends to ignore you, make sure you’re ready to handle their response. They might react with indifference and not seem to care about your own needs and feelings. Or they might become defensive or angry and try to argue with you about why they think you’re wrong. 

The other person’s reaction might be hurtful or upsetting. But it’s important to try to stay calm and composed while interacting with them. Whether or not they respond to your boundary setting with pushback or indifference, try to avoid reacting with anger or other strong emotions. 

Remind yourself that your feelings and needs are valid and that you’re not responsible for the other person’s emotions (or lack thereof).

5.  Consistently enforce your boundaries 

After setting your boundaries, make sure you enforce them. Only enforcing them occasionally may make them seem unimportant or even pointless to the other person. Stick to these limits in every interaction.

What if the other person challenges your boundaries? Firmly but respectfully remind them about your personal limits. You may need to do this multiple times before they stop ignoring you and start to respect the boundaries you set. 

6.  Prioritize self-care and seek support if needed 

Dealing with someone who ignores you and your boundaries may be stressful and harmful to your self-esteem. Make self-care a priority to help reduce stress and maintain emotional wellness. 

Don’t hesitate to seek support from friends, family, and mental health professionals to help you cope with challenging situations involving difficult people. Friends and family can provide emotional support. Therapists or counselors can offer guidance and resources. 

Get the support you need with SonderMind 

Have you been struggling with someone who consistently ignores you? Do you need help identifying healthy boundaries to set or guidance in establishing them with the other person? SonderMind can connect you with a licensed therapist who can provide the right support for improved emotional health and healthy relationship skills. 

Start with SonderMind today to get support in setting and enforcing your boundaries.

Get guidance throughout your mental health journey.

Stay connected and supported with the latest tips and information from SonderMind.