It can be quite a weird feeling when you notice someone staring at you and it can be difficult to figure out why they might be doing it.

The goal of this post will be to help you figure out why they might have been staring at you and to help you understand the cause in real-time in the future.

So, what does it mean when someone stares at you? Possible meanings are that they are attracted to you, they’re trying to assert their dominance over you, they’re threatening you, they might simply be thinking, or they might be mad at you.

There are actually many different reasons that someone might be staring at you. The most effective way to figure out why they might be doing it would be to consider the other body language signals that they are showing.

What it means when someone stares at you

As mentioned already, people can stare for a number of different reasons. Below I will mention a number of possible reasons that someone might stare at you and I will mention body language signals to look for that might come with that type of staring.

They’re attracted to you

If someone is attracted to you then they might stare at you since they are checking you out or it might be because they want to talk to you and they’re staring at you to get your attention.

If they’re checking you out then they will likely look away as soon as you notice them staring at you.

If they were staring because they wanted you to approach them then they would likely maintain eye contact with you for a few seconds and perhaps give you a smile before looking away.

If someone is staring at you due to attraction then they will likely be showing other signs of attraction with their body language that you should look for.

There are actually a lot of body language signals that people can show you when they’re attracted to you. However, below, I will give you some of the main things to look for.

  • Lower body pointing towards you

You may not have thought it but the lower body can actually tell you a lot about what a person is thinking. People will often figure out ways to hide their true feelings by controlling their upper body language but they rarely think about what their lower body might be saying.

This is good for you since you can use it as a reliable way to figure out what a person might be thinking.

If the person is attracted to you then you’ll likely find that they will point their feet or their leading foot towards you. If they’re sitting with their legs crossed then they will still often point the foot that is on the ground in your direction along with the corresponding knee as well.

Another good sign would be if they point their toes up when you’re around or if she’s a woman and she dangles her shoe on the end of her foot.

You should also look to see if they’re pointing their hips towards you since that would also be a good sign.

  • Smiling

If the person staring at you was attracted to you then smiling would also be something that would often accompany the staring. If the person stares at you and smiles when you notice them then that would be an especially good sign and a signal that they want you to approach them.

However, be mindful of the type of smile that they give you. If they smile with their lips closed then that would actually not be such a good sign and might even mean that they don’t want to talk to you.

Yet, if they smile showing their teeth and with creases on the outsides of the eyes then that would signal that the smile was genuine and that they want you to talk to them.

  • Increased touch

When people are attracted to each other they will begin to touch each other more. If you have noticed that the person that was staring at you often touches you then that would be a signal of attraction.

Although, be aware that if they’re of the same gender as you then that could be a signal of domination.

  • Pupil dilation

When people are happy or when they see someone that they like it will actually cause their pupils to dilate more than usual.

If the person that was staring at you had dilated pupils then that would be a good sign and if they’re of the opposite gender it would be a sign of attraction.

  • Foot touching

If you find that the person that was staring has a tendency to touch you with their feet then that would be a sign of attraction.

  • Vocal tone

When a woman is attracted to a man she will often speak with a higher pitch tone. While if it’s a man that’s attracted to the woman he’ll often speak with a deeper voice.

  • Glances in your direction

If the person staring at you was doing it due to attraction then you’ll likely find that they give a number of glances in your direction even after you catch them staring. This can be because they want to get your attention or it may be because they want to check you out.

  • Attraction signs if she’s a woman

If you’re a man and you’re wondering why a woman might have been staring at you then there are some specific things to look out for.

These would include if she tends to play with her hair around you especially with her palms facing you, if she tends to have limp or exposed wrists around you or if she tends to laugh more when she’s in your presence.

  • Attraction signs if he’s a man

If he’s a man then in addition to the things mentioned already you should look for if he tends to talk to you more than others, if he mirrors your body language, if he tends to stay in your vicinity, and he may blush slightly if he’s nervous around you.

To assert dominance

One of the reasons that they might be staring at you is to assert their higher status over you.

If this is the case, then you’ll likely find that their body language will comply with that of a person that is in a setting where he is in control.

If the person is trying to assert their status then in addition to the staring you’ll also likely find that they talk with a deeper voice. This is because talking with a deeper voice has been shown to be linked with feelings of being the dominant person in a setting.

They will also likely have a less restrained body language. So, they will likely have their hands by their sides or in a steeple position instead of having their arms crossed over. They may also lean back in their chairs with their hands behind their heads since this is a position showing a sense of confidence in his surroundings.

You may also notice that the person might tend to touch you more often since that is a power move that people will sometimes use to assert their dominance.

As a warning

If the person is angry then they might be staring at you as a warning to you.

If this is the case then the staring will be more fierce and they will likely be showing many other signs of aggression in addition to the staring.

Think of the body language signals that boxers have when they stare at each other before they fight.

They will be leaning in, they will be sweating, the jaws will be clenched, they may be red in appearance, they might be pacing around, they will have clenched fists and their pupils will likely be constricted.

They don’t like you

It could be that the reason that they are staring at you is that they don’t like you and they might even want you to know it. Or it might be that they’re unhappy with you and they are trying it alert you to their displeasure.

If they are staring at you due to these two reasons then you’ll likely find that they have a closed body language.

This means that they will likely have crossed arms and legs, their feet will be facing away from you, they will likely be frowning, have constricted pupils and will have narrow looking eyes, you’ll also find that they won’t smile and will have their lips closed.

In addition to looking at their body language consider recent events that you have had with the person. If you have recently had an argument then that will likely be the cause of the staring in this instance.

They’re just thinking

The person that you think is staring at you might not actually be staring at you. Instead, it could simply be the case that they are engaged in deep thought and they just happen to be looking in your direction.

If this is the case then they will be less responsive to your actions since they’re not actually looking at you and they will likely be motionless.

Things to consider

When you’re thinking about possible reasons why someone might be staring at you there are some things that you should keep in mind.

The environment

The environment that you’re in will likely play a big part in helping you to determine why the person might be staring at you.

If you’re at a party then the chances of the person staring at you due to attraction and wanting to talk to you will be a lot higher. However, if the person is drunk then the staring could be due to them wanting to start a fight so you should consider the body language clusters that the staring comes with.

If the person is staring in a business setting then the staring will more likely be due to the person feeling like they are in a more high-status position.

Your history with the person

You should also consider your history with the person when you’re trying to figure out why they’re staring.

If you have a bad history with the person then the staring will be much more likely to be due to bad reasons such as trying to intimidate you.

Whereas, if you have a romantic history with the person then they might be staring due to attraction.

If you have never met the person then you’re going to have to do your best to consider the other body language signs that they are showing and to think about the setting that you are in.

Their gender

You should also consider the gender of the person.

If they are of the same gender as you then the staring is going to be less likely to be due to attraction.

Gazing vs staring

Gazing is more personal and is what is done when couples start to bond with each other.

When a potential partner’s feelings towards you start to improve they will likely begin to hold eye contact with you for longer this will even begin before they let you know verbally.

Gazing can take place in a variety of situations and there can be a number of different reasons for the gazing.

It could be that the person is holding longer eye contact with you since they are developing positive feelings for you. If that’s the case then it will likely occur in a social setting and will come with other attraction signals like the ones mentioned above.

It might also be that the person is your boss. People in a position of power will often hold eye contact for longer since it is something that higher status people tend to do.

Body language signs to look for

When trying to figure out why someone might be staring at you one of the best ways to figure out the meaning behind it is to consider the other signals that they are showing with their body language.

Are they showing open signals?

If the person that is staring at you is portraying signs of positive body language then the cause of the staring is going to be much more likely to be due to a positive or neutral meaning.

There are a number of different body language signs that signal positive feelings.

Some examples of positive body language might include pupil dilation, open body shape (ie arms not folded), wide-open eyes without squinting, pointing feet or knees towards you, smiling, and, in the case of a woman, playing with hair and showing palms. They will also often mirror your body language and reciprocate any touching.

Are they showing signals of displeasure?

There are many possible body language signs for displeasure but some possible examples when they’re staring would be feet facing away from you, squinting, crossed arms, pupil constriction, closed lips and an unwillingness to smile. They will also be less likely to mirror your body language.

Related questions

what does it mean when someone stares at you and doesn’t look away?

If someone stares at you and doesn’t look away then it could have a number of different meanings.

If the person is the opposite gender then they could be inviting you to come and talk to them in which case they will have positive body language.

Or it could be that they are mad at you and they want you to know it in which case they will be showing signs of displeasure as mentioned above.

Or it might simply be that they are thinking deeply and they don’t even realize that you have caught them staring at you.

what does it mean when someone stares at you and smiles?

If someone stares at you and smiles then that would be a signal that they like you and that they would welcome you talking to them. That is unless they smile in a more tight-lipped manner which could actually signal the opposite reasons.

If you want to learn more about body language, a book I would recommend would be The Definitive Book of Body Language (on Amazon). It shows you how to interpret body language and understand people's true intentions.

Author

I created and currently manage Body Language Central, one of the premier sources for body language-related knowledge. Body language plays a key role in our daily lives. I hope that my website can help condense the wide amount of body language information available and allow you to make full use of it in your daily life. You can read more about me and my website here.