It can be an awkward feeling when someone doesn’t make any eye contact with you but there are a number of reasons that it can happen. This post will try to help you figure out why someone might do it and to understand it as it happens in the future.

So, what does a lack of eye contact mean? Some possible meanings are that they are being submissive, they’re nervous, it’s what they’ve been taught to do, they’re attracted to you, they’re thinking or it can even be due to a lack of respect.

When trying to figure out why someone might be avoiding eye contact with you it can be very helpful to consider their other body language signals, the environment, who is around and to be aware of their normal behavior.

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Possible reasons why someone might avoid eye contact with you

There are many reasons that someone might avoid making eye contact with you. It’s important not to draw conclusions from single body language signals. Instead, you should consider a person’s body language based on clusters of their body language.

Below, I will mention a number of possible meanings of a lack of eye contact and the body language that you can expect to go with it.

Submission

One reason that someone might avoid eye contact is that they are being submissive. If this is the case then it is likely that they would be looking down instead of up or to the side.

This type of behavior would be more likely in a confrontation, if you’re older than the person or if you’re their boss.

This type of eye contact avoidance would likely come with a number of other behaviors that can signal submission.

It is likely that their voice will go to a higher pitch since that is something that signals being less of a threat.

They would probably show their palms or neck since that shows vulnerability and also shows that they are not a threat.

It’s also be shown that people will tend to smile more when in a submissive state. The smile would likely be with the mouth and not involve creasing besides the eyes.

Nervousness

The reason that they might be avoiding eye contact is that they are nervous and that they don’t want to draw attention to themselves.

If this is the case then they will likely do it with a number of other body language signals that can signal being nervous.

Their feet will likely be facing towards the exit and they may be tapping frequently with one of their feet.

They might be stroking their legs, face, neck or arms repeatedly to relieve stress.

They might lean towards the exit.

They might have their arms crossed.

They might also be glancing towards their friends or the exit frequently.

They’re expected to

The reason that the person might not make eye contact with you could be because they are expected not to do so.

For example, it might be that they are with their parents and their parents have taught them not to look down when talking to adults. Or it might be that their boss is around and they’re not supposed to be talking.

If this is the case, then this type of behavior would be more pronounced only when certain people are around or when they are in a certain environment.

Attraction

One reason that someone might look down when talking to you might actually be because they are attracted to you. This would be more likely to be the case when it’s a woman that’s attracted to a man.

A lack of respect

They might not want to maintain eye contact with you simply because they don’t care about your presence or they have a lack of respect for you.

In this case, they would be more likely not to look at you at all and when they do look at you it could be in a way where they look down upon you with their head tilted back slightly.

They want to leave

If it’s the case that they are looking around a lot then it could be the case that they actually want to leave.

If this is the case then they will likely be showing you a number of other body language signals that suggest that they want to leave.

This would mean that they would likely point there feet towards the exit, lean towards the exit, tap with one of their feet and give glances in that general direction. They would also be less likely to do positive things like touching, mirroring, smiling genuinely and having an open body shape.

They would also be less likely to continue the conversation and would probably be giving one-word type answers.

They’re thinking

It could simply be that they are not well prepared for the situation that they are in and they’re having to think a lot about their answers.

When we need to think we will often look to the side as a way to give ourselves more time before having to give an answer. It may also be that the lack of eye contact is due to a lack of certainty in their answers.

Not necessarily lying

People often think that a lack of eye contact means that they must be lying but that isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, when people lie, they will often hold eye contact for longer because they have learned that people are more suspicious of people when they look away.

Alternative things to look for when trying to catch someone lying would involve them changing their behavior suddenly. For example, after making a statement they might rub their face, neck, legs or arms. This signals that they are feeling some anxiety and that it would be worth questioning them more on the topic to see if the behavior persists.

Eye behaviors to consider

When you’re trying to figure out why someone might be looking away a lot it can help to consider the other eye behaviors that they are showing.

Eye blocking

If someone is trying to avoid eye contact with you then they will likely engage in eye-blocking behavior. This is where they are feeling uncomfortable so the try to prevent having to look at you.

Eye blocking behaviors can include rubbing the eyes, blinking more frequently or putting something in the way to literally block their view of you.

This type of behavior will also likely come with other distancing type body language which can involve things like pointing their feet away, trying to end the conversation, a lack of mirroring, pupil constriction, or rubbing the face, legs, neck or arms.

Darting eyes

Another thing that can signal that they want to leave is if they have darting eyes where they are looking around with their eyes a lot.

Again, this type of behavior will likely come along with the distancing body language signals mentioned above.

Dilation or constriction

When we are happy it can actually cause our pupils to dilate and when we are unhappy it can cause our pupils to constrict.

This means that if they are avoiding eye contact with you and their pupils are constricted it will likely mean that they are in some kind of discomfort. It might be that they want to leave, they don’t like you or they might feel threatened by you.

Squinting

If you notice that they are squinting with their eyes when they are looking at you and when they are looking away then that can also suggest discomfort.

In this case, you should look for other things that can signal discomfort like pupil constriction, looking away, pointing their feet away, leaning away, short answers, or rubbing behaviors.

The direction that they look

It’s also helpful to consider the direction that they are looking in. If they look down then that would be more likely to suggest that they feel threatened or that they are being submissive. If they tend to look to the side then it can signal a lack of respect or a lack of preparedness or even that they want to leave.

Consider their normal behavior

When trying to figure out how someone might be feeling it is important to think about how their behavior is deviating from their normal behavior.

If someone normally looks away when talking to people, perhaps due to a timid personality or how they were brought up, then it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are nervous around you. It may actually be the case that they feel perfectly fine in your presence but they just have a habit of looking away.

Yet, if someone, normally maintains eye contact when talking to people but they don’t around you then that would suggest that they don’t feel comfortable around you. To figure out what they might actually be feeling like it will be necessary for you to observe other body language signals that they are doing differently.

Consider what their body language is saying

When trying to figure out why someone might not be looking at you it will be necessary for you to observe multiple parts of their body language.

This means that you should observe what way their feet are pointing, in what direction they are looking, where they are leaning, in what direction they are edging towards and if they are tapping with their feet. All of these behaviors will help you to figure out where they are thinking of going or who they are most interested in.

You should also look for things like eye blocking behaviors, pupil constriction, rubbing the arms, legs, face or neck, touching the neck, quivering around the eyes or jaw, looking downwards, crossing the arms, tight lips. Since these things can tell you if a person is feeling anxious around you or someone else or for some other reason.

Consider the culture

It’s also important to consider where the person is from. In some cultures, like in Japan, it’s not respectful to stare at someone in the eyes so they look away while talking to you. In these cases looking away while talking should be expected and you might even want to be mindful to do it yourself.

Why to maintain eye contact people

With all of that being said, it would probably be a good idea for you to get into the habit of maintaining eye contact with people unless you want to appear submissive and diffuse a situation.

By maintaining strong eye contact you will be able to convey that you are a confident person that shouldn’t be taken advantage of. This will help you to improve your relationships with people.

Since people often think that avoiding eye contact is a signal of lying it will also help you to improve your relationship with people since they will think that you’re being more honest (even though liers actually look you in the eyes).

Related Questions

What does it mean when someone doesn’t make eye contact with you? If someone avoids making eye contact with you then it would suggest that either they feel uncomfortable around you, they are being submissive, they are attracted, they’re thinking or it can mean that they want to leave.

What are the causes of a lack of eye contact? The reasons that someone might avoid making eye contact are that they might want to leave, they might not be sure of what they are saying, they might have been brought up to avoid eye contact or they might be from a culture where it’s disrespectful to maintain eye contact.

What does it mean when someone looks away while talking to you? If someone looks away while talking to you then it would often suggest that they want a moment to think. It could also suggest that they want to leave.

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.