Dealing with someone you want to avoid at school can be stressful and uncomfortable. Whether it’s an ex, a former friend, or someone who bullies you, having to see them every day can negatively impact your life at school.
Luckily, with some planning and adjustment, you can minimize contact with the person you want to avoid.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Avoid places the person frequents, stick with trusted friends as buffers, have an exit plan if you encounter them, and notify a counselor if you’re being bullied or harassed.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll go over actionable tips to help you keep your distance from someone at school, including how to avoid them in class, in common areas, and online. You’ll also learn how to get help from friends and counselors when needed.
Avoid Being Alone
Stick with trusted friends
Having a few close friends that you can always hang out with at school is a great way to avoid awkward encounters. Try to move in a pack as much as possible between classes, during lunch, free periods, before and after school. There’s safety in numbers!
Just having your crew around creates a buffer zone that makes it much less likely you’ll end up one-on-one with someone you want to avoid.
Have a buffer person in shared classes
If you have a class with the person you’re avoiding, ask a friend to sit between you and that person. Or try to arrive just before the bell so you can grab a seat far away. If your teacher allows it, use backpacks or jackets on the empty seat next to you.
Sitting right next to the person you’re avoiding makes you an easy target for uncomfortable interactions.
Avoid isolated areas
Be aware of danger zones at your school where you could end up alone with the person you want to avoid, like unused hallways, stairwells, or courtyards. Don’t wander to the library or bathroom alone if you can help it. Ask a friend to be your bathroom buddy if needed.
Also avoid staying late after school or arriving early if you know the other person will be there without many other people around. Safety in numbers is key.
Vary Your Routine
Take different routes to class
One great way to avoid running into someone at school is to simply take alternate routes to your classes each day. Most schools have multiple paths to get from point A to point B, so take advantage of that.
Try approaching each building from a different direction, taking stairs instead of elevators, or walking through outdoor courtyards rather than indoor hallways. Changing up your daily journey will make it much less likely you cross paths with someone you’d rather not see.
Just be sure to give yourself enough time so you don’t end up late!
Change up where you sit
Sitting in the same spot every day in each class makes you very predictable and easy to find. Make it tougher for someone to locate you by switching up your seat location regularly. Try sitting in the front one day and the back the next. Move from the left side to the right side.
Sit by different people each time to really mix things up. Just be sure not to pick the same new seat in every class or you’ll still be easy to track down. Varying your location in the classroom makes you less of a sitting duck.
Find a new place to eat lunch
The cafeteria or schoolyard is often where people spend their lunch break, so eating elsewhere can remove you from view. Consider bringing your lunch to a teacher’s classroom, an empty study room, the library, or even off campus if allowed. Just be sure wherever you choose is allowed by school rules.
You can also try packing your lunch and eating outside at a table or bench that’s hidden from plain view. Or eat with a new group of friends that the other person won’t know to look for you with. Just be careful not to hide away in places that are prohibited or could get you in trouble.
A little creativity can go a long way in finding a new lunch spot!
Limit Interactions and Eye Contact
Keep exchanges brief if you have to talk
When encountering someone you want to avoid, it’s best to limit any direct interaction. If you must talk, keep it brief and impersonal. Stick to common courtesies like “hello” or “good morning,” without inviting further discussion.
Avoid initiating small talk or asking personal questions that could prolong the interaction or deepen it emotionally. Politely excuse yourself as soon as possible.
Don’t engage beyond basic courtesy
If the other person tries to engage you in more personal conversation, resist the urge to reciprocate. Offer simple, minimally committal responses instead of reciprocating and revealing information about yourself. For example, if they ask how you are, a simple “fine, thanks” will suffice.
If they inquire about your weekend, you can politely say you were occupied with errands. The key is to not provide openings for further dialogue.
Avoid unnecessary eye contact
Prolonged eye contact can feel intrusive and encourage interaction. When you see this person, focus your gaze away from them and avoid staring in their direction. Brief eye contact may be inevitable, but don’t maintain it longer than needed for basic courtesy.
You want them to get the hint that you’re preoccupied without being outright rude.
With some effort, you can keep exchanges with someone you’re avoiding to a bare minimum. It may feel awkward, but remember it’s for the best in the long run for both of you. With time and consistency, they’ll learn to stop attempting deeper interaction.
Set Boundaries and Create Distance Online
Unfriend/unfollow them on social media
One of the most effective ways to avoid someone online is to unfriend or unfollow them on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. This will prevent them from seeing your posts, stories, and other updates. It also stops their content from showing up in your feed.
Out of sight, out of mind! Just go to their profile and click the “Unfriend” or “Unfollow” button. Some sites like Facebook allow you to also block them, which is even more limiting.
Ask friends not to tag you if they’re with the person
If you and the person you’re avoiding have mutual friends, ask those friends politely not to tag you in any posts or photos if the avoided person is also present. Being tagged together in group photos or check-ins will indirectly connect you back to that person.
Tell your friends that you and so-and-so are taking space from each other right now and you’d appreciate not being tagged together. Most friends will understand and respect your wishes.
Block their number
Don’t want any surprise texts or calls from this person? Simply block their number on your phone. On an iPhone, go to Settings > Messages > Blocked Contacts and add their number. On Androids, open your Phone app, tap the three-dot menu icon by the number, and select Block number.
You can also download apps like Truecaller that offer one-tap blocking options. Out of sight, out of mind. And no more unwanted communications!
Have an Exit Strategy
Plan what to do if you end up in the same space
Even with the best laid plans, you may still find yourself in an awkward situation with someone you’re trying to avoid at school. It’s important to think ahead and have a strategy for how you’ll handle it gracefully if your paths do cross.
First, try not to panic or act flustered if you see them. Remain calm and composed. Have some polite excuses ready to explain why you can’t stick around to chat – e.g. “Sorry, I’m running late for class!” or “I have to get to an appointment.”
You can also pretend you need to make an urgent phone call and step away.
Politely excuse yourself
If you do end up having to interact briefly, keep it short. Smile, give a quick hello, and immediately excuse yourself. Say you’re sorry you can’t talk right now but maybe you’ll catch up another time. The key is to be warm but firm – not so cold that you seem rude, but not so overly friendly that they think you want to linger.
It may feel awkward, but it’s perfectly acceptable to feign a time crunch or other obligation. Say, “I wish I could stay but I really have to run. I’m meeting my group for a project.” They may try to continue the conversation, but just politely repeat that you need to go and bid them goodbye.
Switch seats if possible
In classes or the cafeteria, try to get a seat out of eye contact range from the person you’re avoiding. Position yourself behind a crowd or on the opposite side of the room. If you do make accidental eye contact, just smile slightly and look away.
If you end up near them anyway, focus on your own space – take out your books, eat your food, look at your phone. Avoid turning your body toward them. Keep your responses minimal if they try to start a conversation, and say you need to concentrate on your work.
With some preparation and polite detachment, you can steer clear of awkward encounters. Don’t feel guilty about keeping your distance – you need to do what’s right for you.
Get Help from Friends and Counselors
Ask friends to help create distance
If there is someone at school who is bullying or harassing you, ask your friends to help create distance between you and the bully. For example, have a few friends walk with you between classes or sit near you in the cafeteria.
There is safety in numbers, and bullies are less likely to target you when you are surrounded by friends. You could also ask your friends to intervene if they witness any bullying and make it clear to the bully that their behavior is unacceptable. Remember that you don’t have to deal with this alone.
Notify counselors about bullying/harassment
Don’t be afraid to notify your school counselors or administrators if you are experiencing bullying or harassment at school. That is what they are there for! Describe the situation in detail and any incidents that have occurred.
Counselors can talk to the bully directly and notify their parents, as well as help put measures in place to prevent future bullying interactions. They can also suggest resources and strategies to help you deal with the emotional impact.
Speaking up takes courage, but it is an important step in getting the bullying to stop.
Lean on friends for emotional support
Being bullied or harassed at school can take an emotional toll. Make sure to lean on your friends for support during this difficult time. Confide in friends you trust and explain how the bullying is impacting you.
Having a strong social support system boosts resilience and can help relieve some of the isolation you may feel. Your good friends can also remind you of your positive qualities when your self-esteem is suffering. Don’t underestimate the power of spending quality time with people who care about you!
Laughter and fun can relieve stress.
Avoiding someone at school can greatly improve your comfort and happiness at school. While it does require effort, establishing boundaries and limiting contact is completely within your control. Stick with trusted friends, vary your routine, minimize interactions, and don’t hesitate to notify counselors if you’re being bullied or harassed.
With some adjustments and planning, you can maintain your distance from the person you want to avoid.