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Not being looked in the eye when talking with someone

(169 Posts)

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StarDreamer Thu 26-May-22 15:18:41

Just wondering.

If you are talking with someone and the person is not looking you in the eye, do you tend to infer anything about the person as a result of that, and if so, what, and why please?

Namsnanny Thu 26-May-22 15:29:05

I either feel uncomfortable, or assume, rightly or wrongly that the other person is also feeling that way, and try to put them at ease (I have been labelled a 'people pleaser' before).confused

Mapleleaf Thu 26-May-22 15:31:24

It’s possible that the person could be on the autism spectrum. Some people on the spectrum avoid eye contact.

Blossoming Thu 26-May-22 15:32:26

I’m not usually looking anyone in the eye thanks to eye problems! I tend to tilt my head in their direction and I do look towards them,

Mapleleaf Thu 26-May-22 15:35:53

It can also be a cultural thing, as some cultures believe looking directly at someone is a sign of disrespect.
Others may be anxious or shy, so find eye contact difficult, and others may be hard of hearing, so unaware that someone has spoken to them.
There will be other reasons, too, but these are a few.

VioletSky Thu 26-May-22 15:37:12

I am terrible at eye contact, too much or too little.

I dont think it means anything about people being engaged and interested in talking to anyone

welbeck Thu 26-May-22 15:37:33

it may also be cultural. in some countries it is considered rude, arrogant to look people in the eye. like a challenge. as if starting a fight.
and staring is definitely rude, or aggressive, or uncouth. unwelcome.
so it's a fine line, maybe.

Germanshepherdsmum Thu 26-May-22 15:43:39

Autism, shyness or lying.

Baggs Thu 26-May-22 15:45:53


Autism, shyness or lying.

Just so.

Germanshepherdsmum Thu 26-May-22 15:51:57

Or all three.
Why do you ask, SD?

Nannarose Thu 26-May-22 15:54:08

Definitely a cultural issue - and not easily identified as many cultures that traditionally didn't look people in the eye find that younger people do so more.
And many on the autism spectrum, although a few will stare quite fixedly!
So mostly, I don't infer a great deal, other than being aware that their 'cues' aren't the same as mine.
And I can assure you that a lot of very practised liars look people in the eye very directly!

Hithere Thu 26-May-22 16:04:58

Agree with vs

MissAdventure Thu 26-May-22 16:08:55

I find it a little bit uncomfortable if someone looks into my face too much.

I wouldn't judge someone who didnt make prolonged eye contact because I suspect I may a bit evasive myself.

MawtheMerrier Thu 26-May-22 16:10:41

Glad you seem to be getting out and about so you have become aware of these things.

AGAA4 Thu 26-May-22 16:23:14

I always thought that it was polite to look away at times when people are talking to you rather than constant eye contact.

BlueBelle Thu 26-May-22 16:27:41

But in some cultures it is rude not to look directly
It is what it is, some people are shy, some just accept that some do, some don’t, some can, some can’t, some will,some won’t
We re all different

ixion Thu 26-May-22 16:33:46

Is inference a dangerous tool?

Cherrytree59 Thu 26-May-22 16:34:57

I do not judge, there are many reasons.
My one grandson is autistic
And my other grandson has an eye condition, which has caused photophobia.
I also am photophobic and like my grandson wear dark glasses outside and inside.
This means that although I am look at a the person speaking to me, that person can not see my eyes behind the glasses.
We all walk our own path .

Germanshepherdsmum Thu 26-May-22 16:36:31

Someone raised this today in a resurrected thread about being diagnosed with autism as an adult. Odd to happen twice in one day.

buffyfly9 Thu 26-May-22 16:40:18

I have a friend that does this but after many years I have concluded that she likes to see what is going on behind me.... I always let her sit facing the door of any cafe we are in as I know she likes to spot people she may know!! I also agree with GSM, autism is a common reason but dishonest and manipulative people don't look you in the eye either.

Callistemon21 Thu 26-May-22 16:43:11

Some people have nystagmus.

It's not good to be judgemental and best not to infer anything at all.

Germanshepherdsmum Thu 26-May-22 16:53:18

I worked with a chap whose eyes seemed to look in totally different directions, which must have been difficult for him. Nobody judged. I also went to primary school with a girl who had a 'lazy eye'. Being horrid little brats, we weren't nice to her. It didn't help that she had a constant stream of snot flowing from her nose. But that's rather different to someone whose eyes appear perfectly normal but who evades your gaze.

StarDreamer Thu 26-May-22 16:55:32

Thank you all.

The reason I ask now is because someone mentioned eye contact in another thread.

It is something about which I have at times thought, and so, reminded of it now, and being on Gransnet, it seemed an ideal place to ask.

I have never tended to look people in the eye, thinking back I think I would tend to look towards some non-moving view, such as a wall, probably because I was concentrating on the words I was hearing, so no body language cues being received, and even if I had been looking at the person I don't think that I would have picked things up from most body language cues.

Two other factors, I was almost always taller that the other person, and I tend not to smile when talking.

I saw once, basically by chance, an Open University programme about a social interaction experiment. The experimenters employed an actor to be as if he had just arrived in London at Paddington railway station and he asked always using the same words and tone of voice, somebody who happened to be about, the way to Marble Arch.

Sometimes the actor was dressed as a city gent, bowler hat etc, and sometimes as a workman in overalls.

The experiment involved whether the person encountered smiled or not when giving the information.

The subjects were "assessed" (I know, don't send postcards!) as either working class or middle class.

If I remember correctly, which I might not have entirely, it was found that working class subjects provided the information, but never smiled when doing so, middle class subjects always smiled when they thought the asker was middle class, middle class subjects only sometimes smiled when they thought the asker was working class.

The interaction was covertly filmed.

Afterwards the person was approached by experimenters, the experiment explained, and permission to broadcast the recorded film sought. Clearly some had agreed. Whether anybody refused, and if so, whether they were annoyed about it, was not, as best I remember, mentioned.

I think that sometimes I might have been regarded as aloof, arrogant and disinterested, even though none were true, because of these three factors and the expectation of the person with whom I was talking, who was often in a more senior position than me.

So what happens when people from a working class background got on to a "wearing a suit" type job level as a consequence of the 1944 Education Act and the 1963 Robbins Report?

Needing to smile was not taught. Perhaps some picked it up, others never suspected a need?

Chewbacca Thu 26-May-22 16:58:14

Autism, shyness or lying.


Mine Thu 26-May-22 17:02:08

My daughters friend who is a policewoman said she knows when someone is lying as they look to the left...Now when I'm speaking to someone if they look to the left I want to giggle..grin