When someone is bothering you or won’t leave you alone, it can be challenging to know how best to handle the situation—especially when they’re someone you know.
But what if it’s a stranger in a public place or a coworker you’re not particularly close with? How do you let them know that their company isn’t wanted?
No matter the situation you’re in, here are ways to politely and effectively tell someone to leave you alone:
Certified Professional Life Coach | Conscious Communication Consultant | Founder, LoveQuest Coaching
Learn to communicate in a way that advocates for yourself while considering the needs of others
Before becoming a Life Coach, I was a Public Relations and Marketing strategist, so today, I get to apply many principles of crisis communication and persuasive communication when I coach people on boundary setting.
Many people are clear on what boundaries they want to set for themselves. However, they are unaware of how to set them and the language to use to assert and advocate for themselves.
A combination of words and actions is needed to establish a boundary. In this case, when you want to politely (yet firmly) request that someone leaves you alone, there are specific words that you can use.
I offer examples and explanations for why these communication forms can work; however, without the right energy behind the words, there will be boundary crossings. People won’t take the words seriously.
Let’s look into communication and what most people would say.
Establish a firm boundary: “Right now, I prefer that you leave me alone.”
“After much consideration, I request that you leave me alone.” The problem many people have with this request is that they are conditioned to think it warrants a drawn-out explanation.
You want to be left alone. Period! Why not just say that? You can always answer why if the person asks.
I recommend short and to the point. If you say something like, “could you leave me alone, please?” It’s asking their permission and carries a tone of weakness.
Saying something like, “I’ve taken time to think this through, and right now, I prefer that you leave me alone,” shows you are operating from logic and reasoning and are being self-advocating. This isn’t up for debate—it’s expressing your preference.
Even stronger is, “After giving all of this much thought, I am choosing to remove myself from this.“
It’s powerful, polite, and commands respect. A person who chooses to walk away and towards solitude is someone seeking peace. This is not someone who can be persuaded.
The deeper opportunity here is to look at how you communicate and advocate for yourself.
- Are you weak or strong?
- Do people take you seriously? Why or Why not?
If you want to be left alone or don’t want to engage with someone, what is the mindset, the thought process that convinces you to acquiesce and keep giving people you don’t feel aligned with access to you?
You have permission to simply distance yourself from people, so there is no need to declare that you want to be left alone.
If you only want some alone time: “I’d like some me time,” with a clear explanation
The next scenario of being asked to be left alone is perhaps when you are completing a task or working and want to focus and not be interrupted. This is common now that couples are working from home more.
In this case, it’s important to have a negotiated schedule so that there’s alone time throughout the day. For example, a couple who went from working separately to working from home knew to leave one another alone during the morning hours of 9 pm to 1 pm, and then they would meet to have lunch, then they would continue with work.
Then after work, they each wanted an hour to themselves to unwind and decompress.
Emma liked to exercise and then shower before cooking dinner. So she told Greg, her husband, that she’d like some “alone time” after work. He used this time to do things he wanted to do for himself too. He also wanted alone time on Saturday mornings to work on his car and other projects in his garage. She agreed.
When you tell your partner, “I’d like some me time,” with a clear explanation, it carries a different connotation than asking to be “left alone.” Telling your partner to “leave me alone” puts them on the defensive and makes them think they are smothering you.
It’s important to understand intonation and the intention behind the request.
“My love, I’d like 2 hours of me time on Saturday mornings to get acupuncture and then go to my favorite juice bar to have a juice and read. I’ll be gone from 10 am till noon. What do you think?”
This approach opens a door for discussion and inspires the other person to think about what they can do on their own too. Interdependence is the goal.
Oftentimes people don’t know how to care for themselves and presume it is selfish to have time for themselves. Without solo time, we lose connection to ourselves—our intuition, and we feel scattered and overwhelmed.
Alone time isn’t something to feel guilty or selfish about. It’s normal to want to recharge the battery.
If you just want a moment to have self-care: a softer tone is more appropriate
Another example I encouraged my client to say to his wife, who struggles with anxious attachment and abandonment, is:
“My love, I’m going for a bike ride Sunday morning from 9 am until 11 am. This morning bike ride really helps me clear my head and makes me feel great in my body.”
His wife didn’t feel abandoned or anxious because he made it about what he gets out of the bike ride and included a specific return time. How we communicate with loved ones really matters.
Before, his wife would assume he just wanted to get away from her. She had her own inner work to do on this, which was rooted in a neglectful childhood.
He learned to communicate in a manner that advocated for himself while considering her needs too.
There are many reasons why we want to be left alone. The connotation of “leave me alone” or “I want to be left alone” comes with an energy of shutting others out.
If this is the intent and let’s say a relationship is in turmoil, and you want to establish a firm boundary, then saying “leave me alone,” followed by taking actions to secure that boundary, is powerful.
However, if you just want alone time, uninterrupted work time, or time to run errands and exercise or have self-care, then a softer tone is more appropriate.
In the end, mastering communication and reading others is a great way to master relationships in life.
Business and Productivity Coach | CEO, Tonia Kendrick Media
It can be tough to know how to politely tell someone to leave you alone, especially if you don’t want to hurt their feelings. But sometimes, it’s necessary to maintain your own boundaries and keep your peace of mind.
Here are a few tips on how to do it:
Be assertive, firm, and confident in your statement
Avoid using friendly or apologetic language, which will only undermine your message. For example, instead of saying, “Sorry, I’m not interested,” try “I’m not interested.“
This will prevent you from coming across as angry, anxious, or otherwise upset. Remember, you have a right to your personal space and to be left alone if that’s what you desire.
Be direct and clear — don’t beat around the bush
Be direct and clear about what you’re saying. Don’t beat around the bush or use filler words or phrases. Instead, simply state, “Please leave me alone.” Or “I don’t want to talk right now,” or whatever else feels right for your situation. Then move on.
Be respectful and kind in your tone and delivery
Remember that even though you’re telling this person to back off, you still want to maintain a positive relationship with them. If they get upset or offended, then be empathetic and remember that it’s not about you.
If necessary, you can always walk away.
Be prepared to repeat yourself, if necessary
If the person doesn’t take your hint and continues to try to engage you in conversation, be firm and say something like, “I’ve asked you politely to leave me alone, and now I’m telling you firmly. If you don’t stop, I’ll have to call security.“
Again, don’t feel obligated to explain yourself beyond this point. Just state your boundary clearly and confidently.
Don’t feel obligated to provide a lengthy explanation
Remember, you don’t owe this person an explanation. They don’t need to know why you don’t want to talk, and in many cases, it’s none of their business.
Be prepared for a negative reaction
Be prepared for a negative reaction. The other person may not take your rejection well, but that is their problem, not yours. Just remain calm and firm in your stance.
For example, if they start to argue with you, simply say, “I’m sorry, but I’m not interested in talking right now.“ And then walk away. And if they continue to bother you, don’t hesitate to call for help.
Don’t feel guilty for telling someone to leave you alone
Finally, don’t feel guilty about telling someone to leave you alone. You have a right to do so, and there is nothing wrong with setting boundaries in your relationships. Furthermore, the other person will likely respect you more for being assertive and honest.
Politely telling someone to leave you alone can be difficult. Still, it’s important to remember that you have a right to your personal space and to set boundaries in your relationships.
Be assertive, direct, and clear in your communication. By doing so, you’ll be able to effectively communicate your wishes without any drama or fuss.
Licensed Mental Health Counselor
The key is to stand firm on the boundaries that you set
To politely tell someone to leave you alone, you need to do a few things:
- Figure out what you are willing / not willing to do
- You must be prepared to be direct and firm
- Keep in mind your objective and clearly state it
- Don’t worry about upsetting others; their emotions are their responsibility, not yours.
Often times it is difficult to express a boundary because we worry about upsetting others. It is important to recognize that we do not have control over other people’s feelings and thoughts.
People choose what they want to see, hear or think; it’s their eyes, ears, and mind, after all. It’s their choice and their right.
Different people can have various reactions to the same situation. Take the pandemic as an example — some people reacted negatively because they lost their loved ones/job, while others reacted positively because they no longer had to commute to work and could spend more time with their family.
This only shows that the same event can evoke different experiences.
So no matter what we say/do, different individuals will have different responses, and there is no way we can control their perceptions. We can only focus on our own needs and how we want to express them.
So if you worry that you might upset or disappoint someone by stating your boundary or declining one’s requests, remind yourself that you have no control over how people react, and it is also not your responsibility to how others react.
How to politely tell someone to leave you alone when:
- Your friend keeps asking you to hang out and you’re not interested:
- “Hey, I’m overly committed recently. I’ll reach out to you when my schedule frees up!”
- “Thanks for the invite, but it’s too bad I’m not quite interested in the activities you proposed.”
- “I have other priorities right now and cannot participate in this.”
- A telemarketer/fundraiser is too persistent:
- “I’m sorry, I simply cannot commit at this time.”
- “Thank you, but the product/ cause does not resonate with me.”
- “Thank you for the introduction, but I’m not interested in spending more time exploring this.”
It is important that while you make these statements, you state them clearly and without getting emotional. The key is to stand firm on the boundaries that you set.
Remember, people will try to push back on your boundary; in that case, just repeat your statement. There’s no need to debate or over-justify your decisions.
You must act consistently in upholding your boundaries and do not give in. Once others recognize that you are serious and have made up your mind, they have no other option but to leave you alone.
David Helfand, PsyD
Licensed Psychologist | Owner, LifeWise, PLLC
Focus on your needs and emotions and not their behaviors
When trying to get someone to change their behavior, there is an inherent issue with human nature: we all get defensive.
This can be especially true if you are trying to communicate to a friend or family member that you want to be left alone.
The recipient of that message will often respond with:
- or even passive-aggressiveness.
If for some reason, you are not concerned about the other person’s response, then you have more flexibility in how you frame the request.
However, if you want to politely tell someone to leave you alone and have them respect it while still being friends at the end of the day, I highly recommend focusing on your needs and emotions and not their behaviors.
When we focus on our own emotions, it creates a sense of empathy and intimacy with the listener. I’m sharing something personal and inviting you to help me rather than judging your behavior or giving you a command.
For example, next time you want some alone time, consider saying, “I’ve had a really stressful day and just need some time alone to decompress.“
Another option is, “I’m starting to feel overstimulated, and I’d like to just go for a walk alone to set my mind right.“ This style of communication is not only more pleasant for both the speaker and listener, but it will generally get you what you want more effectively as well.
Dr. Brenda Wade
Clinical Psychologist | Relationship Advisor, Online For Love
Establish and hold boundaries and seek assistance
Is an annoying person bothering you in public, an ex that you don’t want to hear from again suddenly re-surfaces, or a co-worker interrupting your
No matter what the scenario is, everyone has the right to set boundaries and tell people that they are in your space and to leave you alone.
If it’s a co-worker: tell them you cannot be interrupted
How do you do this politely? If it is a co-worker, let them know that you are performing your job and you need to focus on what you are doing, and you cannot be interrupted.
Let them know you can reach out to them if there is a break. This allows you to be in control of the interaction.
If it’s an ex: you need to set a very clear boundary
If it’s your ex and you don’t want to hear from them, you need to set a very clear boundary and let them know that the relationship is over and you wish no further contact from them.
If they cross the boundary you have set in place, let them know you are blocking all channels.
If it’s a stranger in public: walk away or make sure other people are aware that someone is bothering you
If a stranger is bothering you in public, do what you have to do, walk to
the other side of the street, give them a scowling look over your shoulder, and walk away.
If you are in a public establishment such as a restaurant, let the wait staff or manager know that someone is bothering you and ask them to intervene.
If you are on your own at the park or somewhere like that, ask them to leave you alone, and if they do not, say leave me alone again loudly so that you attract onlookers’ attention and start walking or running away.
Make sure others are aware that someone is bothering you.
If you are at an event or party and someone is trying to hit on you because, after all, you are gorgeous, say “no thank you,” pull those Audrey Hepburn glasses over your beautiful eyes and turn away.
If they continue to bother you, tell them you are in a relationship, as that is usually more discouraging for them.
At the end of the day, be true to yourself, establish and hold boundaries and seek assistance if you find yourself in a position where someone is disrespecting you and becoming more than a mere annoyance.
Your safety always comes first.
Senior Editor, Tandem
Be polite, courteous, and upfront to get your message across without issues
I’ve had many moments – both in my business and my personal life – when it was necessary to politely tell someone to stop contacting me.
Depending on who the person is that is annoying or frustrating you, below are some tips that can help you navigate how to ask someone to leave you alone.
For friends: open up about why you need to be left alone
If it’s a friend that is getting in your space, and you want them to leave you be, you might be concerned about hurting their feelings when you ask them nicely to go away.
Because they are your friend, you should be able to open up to them about why you need to be left alone without having to worry that their feelings might be hurt.
Make sure you explain it to them in a way that makes the reasons about you, not them. If you make it about them, they might become defensive or hurt. Also, be upfront with them. Don’t hide things if you don’t need to. Your honesty should be appreciated.
For co-workers: make sure to do so professionally
When it’s a co-worker that is giving you a hassle, and you need to get them off your back, this can be more difficult than when a friend does the same. You can’t always be as open and honest with your co-workers as you can with people that you don’t have a professional relationship with.
Whenever speaking to a co-worker, make sure to do so professionally, and as you would with your friends, you would want to be upfront.
If your co-worker continues to be too close for your comfort, get your HR department involved. Though HR shouldn’t be the first step that you take, one of the reasons they work for a company is to help protect employees, including when there is co-worker discourse.
For clients: use email to communicate your request
You might have heard, “The client is always right,” but what happens when they are wrong?
Sometimes clients will overstep their bounds, and they will try to contact you more than you deem necessary. Other times, clients will have higher expectations of you than you are currently able to fulfill.
If it’s a client that you need to ask to leave you alone, be cautious about how you accomplish this.
Preferably use email to communicate your request so that you will have a “paper trail” of what was or wasn’t discussed. Make sure to read and reread what you are sending the client to ensure your message isn’t misconstrued.
If necessary, escalate the situation to your supervisor. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
No matter who you need to politely tell to leave you alone, it almost always can be tough. If you are polite, courteous, and upfront, you should be able to get your message across without issues.
CEO, Keynote Speakers
Stay neutral and find common ground
We live in a world where people are very sensitive, and therefore it is difficult for us to speak our truths. We can often get caught up in “people-pleasing” behavior, not realizing that we are causing harm to ourselves because we are not being true to our own needs.
I work with many celebrities and famous thought leaders who have people approaching them all the time. They either want a picture taken or some free business advice.
For people who are in the public eye, this can be a very difficult situation because, on the one hand, they want to accommodate their fans and be polite to them. On the other hand, when you are constantly having to deal with people approaching you every time you are in public, it can be quite draining.
So the goal here is to find a balance where you do your best to accommodate people while also staying true to your needs. When you feel it’s time that you need your space to be respected, it is important to do so before you have “hit your limit” so that you do not become passive-aggressive or react in a harsh way.
Related: How to Stop Being Passive Aggressive
Here is what you need to do:
- Step 1 – Validate the person’s feelings and needs. Make sure they understand that you hear them and see their needs.
- Step 2 – Let this person know that you would love to help them, but now is not a good time.
- Step 3 – Help this person understand your needs for privacy and some space. Let them know that they are helping you by giving you this privacy and space so that they feel good about it.
The goal here is to stay neutral and find common ground so that both people’s needs are being validated.
Business Coach | Creator, The Smart Blue Print
“This relationship no longer makes me happy. Because of that, it’s time for us to part ways.”
It’s quite simple to politely tell someone to leave you alone. The communication couldn’t be more straightforward; here it goes, “I am asking, politely, that you leave me alone.”
Remember, you don’t owe anyone an explanation as to why.
If a personal or business relationship is no longer suiting you, it may be healthier to move on. If they follow up and ask, “why?” You can let them know:
- “For personal reasons,” or
- “This relationship is no longer suiting me, and I want to be the most supportive colleague (or friend) as I can. I can’t be that to you now. I will reach out in the future if this changes.”
The essence is, just be blunt. But, if you want to be strategically blunt —here’s another way to approach the communication.
You might consider saying something like, “Just out of interest — how happy does our partnership or relationship make you?” Let them think. Then say, “seriously, how happy?“
If they say “no,” then let them know they should move on. If they say “yes,” tell them, “If I am being honest, I am not content.” The true goal in life is happiness; anyone who tells you differently is lying or trying to tell you something.
Then I would say something like:
“With that being said, this relationship no longer makes me happy. Because of that, it’s time for us to part ways. I get that they may not be your ideal situation, but there are two people here, and being that this is a separation, it’s more important that I follow what I need.
I know you will find future relationships and other people to hope for you, and I know you’re going to be okay. Please refrain from contacting me.”
I have even gone as far as saying, “at some point in the future, you may feel the need to reach out, to try to reconnect or apologize. You don’t need to. If anything changes on my end, I will follow up with you.”
Matchmaker and CEO, Exclusive Matchmaking
Use words that leave no room for interpretation or doubt
When it comes to someone bothering you, there are various ways to tell someone to leave you alone, but it always involves not losing your cool and taking the high road.
Whether it’s an ex or someone in a bar that won’t take no for an answer, there is a good way of doing this and a bad way.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Listen to them: People feel valued and heard when you listen to them. It will come across less abrasively when you do tell them to leave you alone; it gives them some closure and doesn’t make them feel awkward.
- Be direct and to the point: It’s like a breakup—you need to say it quickly and concisely like you are ripping off a band-aid.
- Make sure others aren’t within earshot: You don’t want to embarrass them and make them feel bad. That’s needless.
- Always take the high road and don’t be nasty about it: There is no need to go there. Just remain in a reasonable tone that is somewhat empathetic. Think of how you would want to be treated.
- Use words that leave no room for interpretation or doubt: You don’t want to sort of sidestep and leave them confused. Once again, it will embarrass them later when they realize it.
Social Entrepreneur | Host, The Jenna Banks Show | Author, “I Love Me More: How to Find Happiness and Success through Self-Love“
Set boundaries and take back control of your time and attention
As a reformed people-pleaser, one of the biggest challenges in my life was to learn how to learn and confidently set my boundaries.
I can now proudly look back at a recent situation where I politely, yet confidently, told someone to leave us alone when previously I would have been the “nice girl” to my own detriment.
My boyfriend hadn’t seen each other in several days. So, we decided to get some dinner at the bar at a local restaurant and spend some time together.
As soon as we sat down, the gentleman who was sitting next to my boyfriend started chatting our ears off about his experiences that weekend. This didn’t phase us for the first couple of minutes, as we were just being socially polite.
But soon, it became clear that he was intoxicated. And his stories began getting racier and more outrageous, including tales of a hooker and drugs. That was my queue to politely, yet firmly, tell him to leave us alone.
“With all due respect, this conversation will need to end now. My boyfriend and I haven’t seen each other in several days. We came here to spend time together and catch up. So now we are going to do just that.”
It was said politely, but the boundary was also clearly set. He left us alone without being upset by my words. We were quite relieved to have our time and attention back for ourselves.
Founder, The True Wilderness
Be assertive without being aggressive
It can be difficult to find the right words to tell someone to leave you alone politely. You might worry about offending them or coming across as rude. However, it is important to assert your boundaries and stand up for yourself if you feel uncomfortable or disrespected.
With a little thought and planning, you can find a way to tell someone to back off without being impolite.
Assess the situation first
Before you say anything, it is important to assess the situation. If possible, try to identify why the person is bothering you and whether or not they are aware that they are doing so. This will help you determine how to best approach the situation.
Some common reasons why people might bother you include:
- They are seeking attention
- They are bored
- They feel lonely
- They want to talk about something that is important to them
- They are trying to be funny
- They are trying to annoy you
If the person is bothering you because they are seeking attention, they might be more likely to back off if you ignore them. However, if they are bored or feeling lonely, engaging in conversation with them might make them go away.
It is also important to consider whether or not the person is aware that they are bothering you. If they are, they might be more receptive to being told to stop. However, if they are not aware, telling them directly might come as a surprise and make them more resistant to your request.
Choose your words carefully so that you can convey your message effectively
Once you have assessed the situation, you can start to plan what you want to say. It is important to choose your words carefully so that you can convey your message in the most effective way possible.
Some things to keep in mind when choosing your words include:
- Making it clear that you don’t want to talk
- Avoiding phrases that sound like an invitation to continue talking
- Being assertive without being aggressive
- Using “I” statements
For example, you might say, “I’m not interested in talking right now,” or “Please stop talking to me.“ These phrases make it clear that you don’t want to talk without sounding too harsh.
You should avoid phrases like “Can I help you?” or “What do you want?” as they sound like an invitation to continue talking. Instead, focus on phrases that state your desire to be left alone.
It is also important to be assertive without being aggressive. For example, you might say, “I’m not comfortable with you standing so close to me,“ or “I don’t appreciate being followed around.“ These statements make it clear that you want the person to stop without sounding like you are attacking them.
CEO and Founder, The Best Calgary
Tell the person how you feel and how you think they are overstepping your boundaries
Telling someone to leave you alone can feel awkward, especially if you try to put yourself in their position. While you might want to shout, “Stop! Leave me alone!” you can always politely let the offender know that their actions are completely unwanted.
You can lessen the blow by calming yourself down.
Always remind yourself to put yourself in their position. Keep in mind that if you show them firsthand that you are already annoyed or agitated, things will not go well, and it will escalate more quickly than you expect.
At the end of the day, being polite doesn’t necessarily mean that you are giving in to them.
Open your mind and your ears; all of us want to be heard. It doesn’t matter who opened up the issue, show the other person that you are respecting their opinion by giving your full attention and listening to what they have to say, and by looking through their perspective.
Let them finish what they have to say. Being an active listener can help you guide the conversation and politely make your point in the context of the other person’s thoughts and feelings.
When it’s your turn to talk, be honest and, at the same time, be sensitive to the other person’s emotions.
Be assertive in a positive way. Tell the person how you truly feel and how you think they are overstepping your boundaries. Make sure that you make them understand your side of feeling that way.
Being direct and honest is necessary for you to clearly and completely communicate your needs.
If that person said, they totally understand and agree with what you have talked about but end up doing the exact opposite of what you requested them to do, remind them about the boundaries you’ve set and about your feelings.
Then, avoid crossing paths with them by avoiding the place they usually hang out. Limit your contact and do not talk about them or mention them with mutual friends. If they were mentioned and the topic is unavoidable, acknowledge it and then quickly change the topic.
We understand others might find it challenging to tell a person to back off. However, it’s really not hard to learn how to tell someone to leave you alone without feeling terrible about it. Just remember to be sensitive and assertive.
Also, it is important to take into consideration the right place and time when trying to confront a person about your boundaries.
Master Certified Life Coach | Self-Love Coach | Host, “Loving Our Fears Podcast“
Think about why is it that you want them to leave you alone
Before I begin to answer the question about how to politely tell someone
to leave you alone, I want to explore what being polite means. If you look
up the dictionary meaning of polite, it says to be courteous or respectful.
But so many times, we confuse being polite with not saying anything at all
because of our own fears of displeasing others.
So, the very first step in telling someone to leave us alone is really
looking at our own thought processes and identifying the blocks or fears
that may be preventing us from fully embracing the idea that it is not okay
to tell someone to leave us alone.
Once you have made peace with the idea of telling someone, then comes the how part: How do you tell someone?
This step depends on who it is that you are telling this to. If this is someone in your friends and family circle, you may need to tell them the “why” part.
Why is it that you want them to leave you alone?
But in creating your why, make sure you focus on yourself and what it is that you want, not what you are ‘supposed to want‘ according to the rules of the society you live in.
Also, you do not have to explain your why in multiple sentences. It can be as short as “this is what I want in my life right now, but if I change my mind, I will be sure to let you know.”
At the end of the day, you need to put yourself and your own needs before how others will perceive you if or when you tell them to leave you alone.
Head of Partnerships, SaneBox
“Would you mind giving me some space?”
Politely requesting to be left alone is a tricky business. The easiest approach is to form a suggestive question. “Would you mind giving me a moment to myself?“ or “Would you mind giving me some space?“ are effective and subtle.
If you need more than a suggestion, phrasing a statement will work better than a question. Expressing this as a need by starting the statement with “I need… (a moment to myself right now, some space, etc.)“ should work without too much friction.
If it does cause a stir, realize that some people aren’t going to be reasonable and remove yourself from the situation as quickly as possible without provocation.
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