If you have recently noticed someone avoiding eye contact with you then you’re probably wondering why.
This post will try to help you to figure out why and to help you to make sense of it as it happens in the future.
So, what does it mean when someone won’t make eye contact with you? It can mean that they are feeling nervous, shy, angry or that they’re sad. It could also be that they are attracted to you or that they have social anxiety.
Since there are actually a number of reasons that someone might avoid eye contact with you it will be necessary for you to consider other body language signals that they are showing.
By doing so you will be able to get a better idea of why they are doing it.
Possible reasons why someone might avoid eye contact with you
There are a number of reasons why someone might avoid making eye contact with you and each of them will likely come with a number of clues in their body language.
Below, I will mention a number of reasons why someone might avoid making eye contact with you along with the possible body language cues to look for.
They find you attractive
The reason that someone might avoid making eye contact with you is that they are attracted to you but that they are also nervous around you.
In this case, they would likely be showing signs of attraction whilst also showing signs of nervousness.
Body language signals to look for would include:
- Feet pointing towards you
You might not have thought it but the feet can actually give a lot away about a person’s feelings. People learn to hide some of their emotions on their face but they rarely think about what their feet might be showing.
If the person is attracted to you then it is likely that they would be pointing their feet at you even when they’re not directly in front of you.
When they are talking to you it could also be the case that they point their feet upwards. When people show behaviors with their body language that go against gravity it is generally a positive sign.
The might also tap their feet due to being nervous around you. Although, this can also be a signal that they want to leave so you should take note of where their feet are pointing.
When we are with a person that we are attracted to it can actually cause our pupils to dilate. This means that if they find you attractive then it is likely that they would have dilated pupils when they are with you.
It would also be likely that they wouldn’t be squinting and that they wouldn’t be tensing their eyebrows close together.
The person would also likely give lots of glances in your general direction when in the same room as you and when you catch the person they would likely look away quickly.
- Touching and talking
It might also be that they would touch you more frequently than others. This could be in the form of touching you on the arm or hugging you more tightly and for a longer duration.
It would also be likely that they would talk to you more than others and that they would show you positive signals such as smiling and showing their vulnerable areas when talking to you.
It has also be found that when talking to people that we find attractive it can actually make us talk with a different tone than usual.
In the case of a man talking to a woman that he likes, we would speak with a lower voice but also speak with a higher pitch at times.
In the case of a woman talking to a man that she likes she would often speak at a higher pitch.
If the person was attracted to you but nervous then they would likely maintain
- Rubbing behaviors
If the person is attracted to you but nervous they would likely show other signs of nervousness around you.
One of those signs can include rubbing behaviors where they rub their eyes, nose, face, neck, arms or legs when with you.
Doing this helps to soothe the nerves and to calm the person down.
If a person won’t maintain eye contact with you it could be a sign that they are nervous.
This would be more likely in the scenario where they are unable to maintain eye contact with you when talking to you.
The reason that they are nervous could be due to attraction as mentioned above, but it could also be that they think you’re of a much higher status than them, there is something that they don’t want to tell you or that there is some other factor in the environment, unrelated to you, causing them to be nervous.
If they are nervous then they would likely show a number of body language signals of being nervous which can include:
- Eye blocking
When a person is nervous around another person it can cause them to engage in behaviors that reduce how much they see that person.
This can include doing things like blinking frequently, rubbing the eyes or positioning something to be in the way of their eyes.
- Rubbing behaviors
As explained in the section above, people will engage in rubbing behaviors when nervous. This can include rubbing the eyes, palms, arms, face, neck or upper legs
- Crossing the arms and legs
If a person is nervous then they might take up a closed body position so that they are less noticeable and less approachable.
One way to do this would be by crossing the arms and legs. Alternatively, they might cross their feet around the legs of their chair if they’re sitting down.
If a person is nervous they might start to fidget. This can involve tapping the fingers or feet a lot, moving their arms around or constantly readjusting themselves in their chair.
If they are nervous they might quiver under the eyes, jaw or on the lower lips.
- Dry mouth
If a person is nervous they might show signs of having a dry mouth such as licking the lips, breathing differently or drinking more.
They’re mad at you
It might be that they are avoiding eye contact with you due to being mad at you.
If this is the case then it would be likely that something had recently happened that would cause them to be mad.
If they are mad they would likely show signs of that in their body language and in their interactions with you.
This can include:
- Crossing the arms and legs
- Pupil constriction
- Pointing the feet a
- Tightening the eyebrows together
- Clenching the fists and jaw
- Tightening the lips
- Giving short answers
- Avoiding contact with you
- Extending their proximity from you
- Talking with a deeper pitch
They have social anxiety
If you don’t know the person then it could be that they have some social anxiety and that they are nervous about meeting new people.
In this case, they would likely show many of the signs of nervousness above but it wouldn’t necessarily be due to them having any issues with you personally.
It might be that they aren’t making eye contact due to being sad.
If this is the case then something might have happened recently that might have made them sad. It could be that they got bad grades on a test, got dumped or something else.
If they are sad they would likely show signs in their body language of being sad such as:
- Crying or having watery eyes
- Quivering of the eyelids, mouth or jaw
- Monotone speech tone
- Looking down
- Crossing the arms and legs
- Avoiding talking
- Tucking their feet under the legs of their chair
They’re not interested in you
It could be the case that the reason that they are avoiding making eye contact with you is that they are not interested in you.
It could be that they have never met you before in which case they will be showing a neutral body language to you. It could be that they don’t consider you a friend or that they don’t find you attractive which again would likely come with a neutral body language.
Alternatively, it could be that they were interested in you but something has caused it to go away. It could be because they haven’t spoken to you in a long time or that you have been avoiding talking to them. In this case, they would either show a neutral body language or they might show one that is closed off to you.
It could have been that they were submitting to you.
When you look at a person in the eyes and they look down it would often be a submissive behavior.
This would be more likely if you’re in a position or relative authority over them. Perhaps you’re their boss, parent or you’re just socially more popular.
Alternatively, it could have been that you were coming off as aggressive and they were avoiding eye contact because that can be considered an act of aggression.
Again, if they were submitting, it is likely that they would have shown it in other aspects of their body language.
This could have included things such as:
- Laughing a lot
- Talking at a higher pitch
- Making the body appear smaller by slouching and taking a narrow stance
- Showing vulnerable areas like the hands or neck
- Not closing the distance to you
They are from a culture where it’s expected
It could be that the person was actually from a culture where it is considered as disrespectful to maintain eye contact with someone when talking with them.
It could be that the person that didn’t maintain eye contact with you was from one of these cultures and they were being polite.
Consider their normal behavior
When trying to figure out what a person’s body language might be telling you it is important to take their normal body language into account.
If a person doesn’t normally maintain eye contact with others even when they are feeling comfortable then it could be that they were brought up to be that way.
If this type of person doesn’t maintain eye contact with you when talking to you then it wouldn’t be a strong indicator that they don’t like you unless other aspects of their body language appeared different.
Whereas, if a person that is normally able to hold eye contact doesn’t do it with you then it would be a stronger indicator that something is amiss.
If this happens then it would be important to look for other aspects of his body language that appear different and to consider recent events that happened with the person.
Consider where it happened
The location that it occurred in would also likely be of use to you in determining why they didn’t maintain eye contact.
If it was in a business setting then it may have been that they were nervous and that they didn’t want to come off as being a threat to people in higher positions.
If it was in a social setting then it would make it more likely that either they were nervous, had social anxiety or were attracted but nervous as well.
Think about when they didn’t make eye contact with you
The timing of when they stopped making eye contact with you would likely be of use as well.
If they stopped making eye contact after being asked a question then it could be that they had an emotional response to that question. If this was the case then it would be likely that they would have shown other body language signs of nervousness, like rubbing the nose,
If they stopped making eye contact after you started shouting at them then it would have been much more likely to have been due to submission.
If they looked away as soon as they saw you then it could be that they are attracted to you but they don’t want you to know, they are mad at you or that you make them nervous.
Consider who else was around
It could have been that other people were the ones that were causing the person to stop making eye contact.
If the person’s parents were around then it could have been that the person was acting the way that their parents wanted them to.
If it was when there were people that they do not like around then it could have been that they were causing the person to enter a more closed off type of body language.
If you are still unsure or you want to get a better understanding of body language then a good ebook that I would recommend that will teach you how to better read body language would be this one.
What does it mean when someone can’t look you in the eye? If someone can’t look you in the eye it could be that you make them nervous, you come off as aggressive to them, they are mad at you, they have social anxiety or that they’re from a culture where it’s expected that they avoid eye contact.
What does it mean when someone looks away while talking to you? If someone looks away while talking to you it could be that they are thinking about their answer, they are nervous or that they are submitting. Generally, people hold eye contact around 70% of the time so if they hold eye contact about that often then it’s normal behavior.
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.