Narcissists, a pushy salesman, an ex who won’t go away, the stranger lacking social skills, a relative who asks invasive questions, these types of characters are everywhere.
And if you aren’t careful, the next thing you know you could find yourself upset, stressed, in a conversion you don’t want to be in, or signing up for a yearly subscription you don’t need.
So you need to learn the best way to manage invasive people. You need to learn the art of non-engagement.
What is Non-Engagement
Simply put, Non-engagement is when you do not engage, meaning you do not take part or you withdraw.
In this article, non-engagement is when you choose not to take part in a conversation or activity that you don’t want to be in (that overrides your boundaries).
Who Non-Engagement is For
Non-engagement is for anyone who wants to establish boundaries, find their personal power and be respected.
If you’ve ever dealt with a narcissist, signed up for something you didn’t want, got suckered into buying something you didn’t want or if you get upset/stressed when people ask you invasive questions about your life, it’s definitely for you.
Benefits of Non-Engagement
Ideally everyone would learn to respect others, but unfortunately that’s not the case. And how other people act is outside of our control. So we need to focus on what we can control: our response to others.
When we do not engage with those who are trying to push our boundaries and when we act assertively, we reduce stress and anxiety. We show ourselves that we hold power and that other people do not have power over us.
So instead of being upset and thinking about how the invasive relative kept bringing up a topic of conversation that was upsetting. You will think about how proud you are that you asserted your boundaries. Or you may not be thinking about the situation at all because you forgot about it right after it happened.
How Non-Engagement Works
When we establish boundaries we let others know what we will and won’t accept. So when we say “no” we show someone we do not accept their invitation or what they are offering.
Unfortunately, some people do not accept boundaries or they think they can change someone’s boundaries. So when you say “no” they think they can turn the no to a yes with coercion.
This can be confusing and stressful and depending on how much power you give others, it can put you on edge and feel like you are misunderstood and not respected.
So you might respond aggressively or you may get disheartened and shut down. And the next thing you know you are ruminating over the conversation with your relative, venting to a friend about the ex who won’t leave you alone or stressing over how you’re going to fit the yearly subscription you were coerced into buying into your budget.
When you practice non-engagement you assert your power and enforce your boundary in a non-stressful way. You reduce the effect other people have on you, and say, “this is what I will accept, and this is how I will be treated.” You show yourself that you are worthy and you demand respect assertively.
So instead of feeling upset that someone yet again asked when you are having kids, you might forget they asked immediately after they asked it, because their question didn’t affect you and was inconsequential.
Examples of Non-Engagement
Example #1: The cart attendant at the mall asks if you want a free sample. You say, “no,” and continue walking. The attendant follow you and continues to ask you to take a sample. You keep walking without breaking your stride.
Example #2: A relative asks you if you are still single. You say, “yes.” They talk about fake statistics like it being more likely for a woman to be involved in a terrorist attack than get married past 30. You say, “It was nice seeing you,” and walk away.
Example #3: An ex texts you and asks if you want to meet up for coffee. You say you need space. Your ex replies that they think you are being unfair. You leave them on read.
Why we Need Non-Engagement
Non engagement is essential for your mental health.
It is about you taking back your power. And it is about being assertive and strategically asserting boundaries with minimal energy and stress.
When you were a kid you were told to listen to adults and the adults had all the power. When you got older the power dynamic shifts but you may get stuck thinking others still have power over you.
With non-engagement you remind yourself and others that you have an equal footing and that they do not control the conversation or your interaction with them.
So when a salesperson, or an ex, or a relative tries to engage you in a conversation that you do not want to be in, you take back your power and remove yourself from the conversation by not engaging.
QQ People talk about narcissists in a way that gives them power. But the narcissist only has the power you give them and when you choose not to engage, you take that power away.
You assert your boundary and you take power away from the person who is disrespecting your boundary in the quickest, low energy way.
Real Life Examples
Pushy cashiers asking me to sign up for a credit card used to irk me. I would say “no” to signing up for the card. The cashier would then list off the “benefits” and continue to ask me to sign up while I would give excuses like: “I don’t want the card” or “the APR is really high.”
I would leave the store feeling uncomfortable and flustered. Now, I just say “no” one time and then stand quietly as I wait to finish the transaction. Sometimes the cashier will continue to talk about the card and I simply don’t engage.
After breaking it off with someone, I asked for space. He responded by saying he wanted to be friends. I asked for space again. He asked if we could meet and talk in person. I asked for space again. He attacked me and said I was mean and blamed him for everything. I took space by choosing to no longer engage in the conversation.
I would find myself in conversations during cocktail parties with strangers asking me when I am having kids. After I said I was not having children they would protest by telling me I might change my mind or that they think I was being selfish. This used to upset me and I would sometimes think about it days afterward. Now, instead of engaging, I say “OK” and stand silently until the conversation topic changes.
Non-engagement is an act of self love that will resonate in every area of your life. It’s a total power move.
When you learn and introduce this skill into your everyday life you will not only show yourself but you will also show others how you demand to be treated in an assertive and polite way.
You take an active, powerful role in your life and you make the statement that you will decide what conversation you will engage in.
It may feel uncomfortable to practice non-engagement at first. Simply remind yourself that you are not ignoring someone, you are reasserting your boundaries in a powerful way.
Photo by Mikhail Nilov