15 Reasons Someone Is Avoiding Eye Contact: What Does It Mean

what avoiding eye contact means

Have you ever noticed someone avoiding eye contact with you? Or maybe you notice that when you are in a conversation with someone you are avoiding eye contact with them.

Ever wondered what it means/says about you and them? In this article, I get down and dirty with what you need to know about eye contact avoidance whether you are doing it or you notice someone else doing it to you.

As I did my research it became clear that this isn’t a one size fits all issue. So, coming up with a concise way to describe it was a bit tough, but here is my best answer providing the “short” answer.

So, what does it mean when someone avoids eye contact with you (or you avoid it with them? Avoiding eye contact can be an attempt to hide something like social awkwardness, interest, or attraction (maybe they like you). Often people avoid eye contact or exaggerate it when lying. They are afraid of being exposed. Eye movement is driven emotionally and unconsciously. The eyes tell all.

There are many reasons why this happens and in this article, I’m going to mention and explain 11 possible reasons that this could be happening.

Why It’s Important To Understand Why Someone Might Be Avoiding Eye Contact

Having good eye contact is a powerful tool that can be used to communicate emotions, understanding, and even messages without speaking. That’s why it’s important to understand why you or someone you are speaking with might be avoiding eye contact.

Generally speaking, people’s perception of another is often based on the amount of eye contact they receive. If someone is receiving little eye contact, they can feel ignored, disrespected, or even uncomfortable.

On the other hand, if you’re speaking to someone who maintains consistent and comfortable eye contact with you, it conveys a sense of trust and respect between both parties.

People who have an extroverted personality, for example, may be more likely to maintain consistent eye contact during conversations. Those with introverted personalities, on the other hand, may feel more comfortable looking away while they talk or even avoiding direct eye contact altogether.

Regardless of personality type, however, it’s important to understand that eye contact is an essential part of communication and helps people to connect with each other on a deeper level.

Eyes make up a major pie of facial expressions signaling. We communicate our emotional states through our eyes. It’s not for nothing that they’re called the windows to the soul.


I’ll go into each of these reasons further in this article but whatever the reason, it’s important to pay attention and not make assumptions about someone’s behaviors before taking a deeper look at why they might be avoiding eye contact.

So, the next time you’re in a conversation with someone who isn’t meeting your direct gaze or gives you an unconscious glance, take the time to really try and understand what’s going on with them.

After all, taking the time to try to understand each other is a great way to truly connect with each other.

11 Reasons Someone Does Not Make Eye Contact With You

There are many possible reasons that this could be happening, but here are 10 most common reasons for someone avoiding eye contact.

1. Social Anxiety Disorder

For people with social anxiety, being in social settings and making eye contact can cause extreme discomfort and even fear. They may be avoiding eye contact to help protect themselves from the potential feelings of awkwardness or vulnerability.

Anxious people may also be worrying about what the other person is thinking, and avoiding eye contact can reduce their stress.

What Is Social Anxiety?

Social anxiety is a type of anxiety disorder that involves feelings of intense fear or distress in social situations. People with social anxiety often become overwhelmed by their thoughts and worries about how others may perceive them, which leads to avoidance of certain social situations.

2. Shyness or Embarrassment

Shyness or embarrassment can also cause people to avoid eye contact. They may be self-conscious about their appearance or feel uncomfortable in a particular social situation.

A shy guy (or woman) may also fear being judged by others, which leads them to keep their eyes averted to avoid any potential criticism.

What Causes People To Be Shy Or Embarrassed?

There are many potential causes of shyness or embarrassment, including low self-esteem, fear of rejection, feeling inadequate or insecure about one’s abilities and skills, body image issues, and past negative experiences.

Overcoming these fears can be difficult and may require help from a professional such as a counselor or therapist.

3. Disinterest or Boredom

Sometimes, people avoid eye contact simply because they don’t care about the conversation or are feeling bored by what is being said. They may be hoping that the other person will pick up on their disinterest and stop talking.

This can be an annoying habit in social situations, particularly for those who are trying to engage with someone who appears to be avoiding their gaze.

The best way to deal with this is to politely acknowledge the lack of eye contact and ask if the person would like to change topics or move on from the conversation. If they are still not making eye contact, it may be best to just end the conversation gracefully.

Try not to take it personally. I always imagine that something is going on in that person’s life that I’m not aware of and they may just be thinking about that.

4. Deception or Dishonesty

It is possible that someone may be avoiding eye contact because they are trying to hide something or avoid telling the truth. If you suspect this from someone that you know, it would be better to confront them directly and ask them if there is anything they need to tell you.

This could help you get to the bottom of what’s going on much faster than just waiting around for them to make eye contact. If you are able to get an honest answer, then great! Otherwise, it may be best to move on and continue the conversation in a different direction.

5. Fear or Intimidation

In some situations, avoiding eye contact may be a sign of fear or intimidation. For example, if someone is in a confrontational or threatening situation, they may avoid eye contact to avoid escalating the situation or appearing confrontational.

In these situations, it’s important to be aware of the other person’s body language and tone of voice. If they appear to be tense or anxious, it may be best to try to defuse the situation and avoid making direct eye contact.

6. Cognitive or Physical Impairment

A very common reason why someone may not make eye contact is that they have a cognitive or physical impairment. This could include conditions such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and/or some type of neurological disorder.

For example, someone with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has a great deal of difficulty making and/or maintaining eye contact. Autistic people find direct eye contact overwhelming and uncomfortable. In fact, avoidance of eye contact is a hallmark of ASD.

If this is the case, it’s important to be patient and understanding. Try to focus on the words they are saying and try to get to the bottom of what’s going on much quicker than waiting around for them to make eye contact.

At the same time, it’s important to remember that making eye contact can be difficult or uncomfortable for some people due to their condition, so don’t take it personally if someone isn’t looking at you directly.

Instead, be a bit more creative with your communication skills, and don’t forget that smiles and hand gestures can often go much further than words ever will. Who knows, maybe you’ll even make a new friend in the process!

7. Distraction or Multitasking

In today’s fast-paced world, many people are constantly multitasking and may not be able to give their full attention to a conversation. They may avoid eye contact simply because they are distracted or trying to focus on something else.

If you suspect that someone is avoiding eye contact because they are distracted or multitasking, it’s best to politely acknowledge this and ask if they need to attend to something else first. This can help to avoid misunderstandings and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

8. Trauma or PTSD

People who have experienced trauma or have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may avoid eye contact as a way of protecting themselves from triggers or memories associated with the trauma.

If you suspect that someone is avoiding eye contact due to trauma or PTSD, it’s important to be patient and understanding. Try to create a safe and supportive environment for them and avoid putting pressure on them to make eye contact if they are not ready.

9. Personality or Temperament

As mentioned earlier, some people simply have a more introverted personality or temperament and may be more comfortable with less eye contact during conversations.

This does not necessarily mean that they are disinterested or dishonest, but rather that they may have a different communication style or preference.

If you are interacting with someone who appears to be avoiding eye contact due to their personality or temperament, it’s best to respect their communication style and find alternative ways to connect with them.

10. Cultural Differences

Eye contact can be interpreted differently depending on which culture someone is from. For example, in some cultures looking into someone’s eyes is considered to be intimidating or rude, so it’s important to be mindful and respectful of that.

If you’re unsure, don’t be afraid to ask someone else from the same culture what their customs are when it comes to eye contact. That way, you can make sure that your interactions with others are meaningful and appropriate.

“Eye movement studies have shown that individuals from East Asia look at pictures of faces differently than those from Western cultures (Blais, Jack, Scheepers, Fiset, & Caldara, 2008).” – discovery.ucl.ac.uk

It’s important to remember that avoiding eye contact doesn’t necessarily mean someone is being disrespectful or disinterested. It may just be their way of communicating, so try to stay open-minded and don’t jump to conclusions.

At the end of the day, it’s important to be aware of cultural differences when it comes to avoiding eye contact. Don’t immediately assume that someone is rude or disrespectful – there may be more beneath the surface.

In What Cultures Is Eye Contact Rude?

The following are cultures in which eye contact might be considered rude:

  • In some Asian cultures – Eye contact is often seen as a sign of disrespect in some Asian countries. It’s best to avoid prolonged eye contact if you are talking to someone from these cultures.
  • Middle Eastern countries – In the Middle East, direct eye contact can be seen as offensive, so it’s best to keep your eyes averted when speaking.
  • Native American cultures – In some Native American tribes, sustained direct eye contact is frowned upon and considered a sign of disrespect. It’s better to show respect by not making sustained eye contact with anyone in this culture.

The specific countries where eye contact is frowned upon either completely or occasionally.

  • China
  • Japan
  • Hong Kong
  • South Korea
  • Thailand
  • Iran
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Vietnam
  • Cambodia
  • Indonesia
  • Kenya

11. Power Dynamics

Avoiding eye contact has long been associated with power dynamics. When a person feels superior to you and avoids looking at you, it’s a silent power play. It can be used to make someone feel lower in status or simply as a way to maintain distance.

Whatever the case may be, the best way to handle this type of conversation is to remain calm and collected. Showing anger or irritation won’t do you any favors in this situation.

The best way to counter the power play is to be confident and maintain composure, no matter how uncomfortable the situation may be. Sometimes, not reacting to the eye-avoidance is the best way to get a point across. After all, actions speak louder than words.

When it comes to avoiding eye contact, remember this: Just because someone isn’t looking at you doesn’t mean they’re better than you. They may simply have something else on their mind — or nothing at all!

Don’t let it make you feel inferior — take it as an opportunity to sharpen your social skills, and practice responding in a confident manner. Who knows – maybe you can even turn the tables and gain the upper hand!

In the end, being aware of the power dynamics at play is key to navigating any conversation successfully. Acknowledge it and you’ll be well on your way to making sure all communication between yourself and others is as respectful and meaningful as possible!

12. Low Self-Esteem

At the end of the day, avoiding eye contact is usually a sign of low self-esteem. People with low self-confidence often feel like they’re not worth looking at, so they try to make themselves invisible.

It’s sad but true – if someone isn’t making eye contact with you, chances are they don’t think you’ll give them the time of day, and they don’t even want to try. Again, it’s not necessarily about you so don’t take it personally.

If you notice someone avoiding eye contact with you, maybe try striking up a conversation and showing them some kindness – it might help boost their self-esteem!

What Causes Someone To Have Low Self-Esteem?

One of the most common causes of low self-esteem is constant criticism. Whether it’s from a family member, friend, or boss, if you’re used to hearing that you always do things wrong, it can start to feel like you’re not good enough. In addition to this, bullying and abuse can also cause someone to have low self-esteem due to being made to feel small and unworthy.

Another potential cause of low self-esteem is comparing yourself to others. When you constantly compare your accomplishments, looks, or relationships to those around you, it can be easy to become discouraged and forget about your own unique strengths and qualities.

Finally, if someone has difficulties understanding or expressing their emotions, this can also lead to low self-esteem. It’s important to be able to have a good sense of self in order to understand your feelings and stay confident through life’s ups and downs.

13. Attraction

On the flip side, avoiding eye contact can also signify attraction. When people are attracted to each other, they often feel a little bit awkward and uncomfortable, so they look away to avoid awkwardness.

Human beings cover up their insecurities at first sight.” – herway.net

It’s an instinctive way of trying to hide their feelings – but in reality, it only makes it all the more obvious that they’re interested. So if you notice someone avoiding eye contact with you, it could be a sign that there’s something special between you both!

Of course, don’t take it as an absolute truth – sometimes people just don’t like making eye contact for any variety of reasons. But if it’s someone you are interested in, then it could be worth exploring further.

14. Avoiding Connection

Some people may feel vulnerable when they are open and connecting with someone, so avoiding eye contact can be a form of self-protection. It’s like a barrier between them and the other person.

Some people are true introverts and find it difficult to make connections with others, so they may use eye contact avoidance as a way of getting out of uncomfortable situations.

If this is the case, then the best thing you can do is be understanding and respectful. Show them that you are there for them if they need someone to talk to, but don’t push too hard.

Ultimately, it all comes down to understanding the context of the situation and assessing if there is any deeper meaning behind that person avoiding eye contact. It could be nothing, or it could be a sign of something bigger – so keep your eyes open (literally) for the subtle signs.

…when a person avoids eye contact, it means they don’t want to engage with what’s in front of them or that they want to engage with something else. This ‘desire for a lack of engagement’ with an object is the core reason behind almost all the reasons for avoiding eye contact.


15. Anger

When it comes to avoiding eye contact, anger can be at the root of the issue. A person may not want to look someone in the eye because they’re feeling angry or fear that their anger will show.

Who knows, it could be that the person avoiding eye contact with you is angry about something or at someone. In that case, it may be best to just give them a bit of space and time. Maybe they’ll get over their grumpiness soon enough.

On the other hand, if you’re the one feeling angry, it might be a good idea to take some deep breaths before looking someone in the eye. After all, it’s never a good look to be seen seething with rage!

I have a whole article devoted to why people avoid eye contact when they are angry.

What Is Happening When Someone Can’t Make Eye Contact During A Conversation

We’ve all been in a conversation where someone seems that they aren’t paying close attention.

infographic on maintaining and avoiding eye contact in conversations

Remember that healthy eye contact is usually somewhere between 50% ad 70% of the conversation. It’s like a seesaw.

On one end of the spectrum, too much eye contact can be creepy, and on the other end of the spectrum, it comes off as dismissive and uninterested.

When it dips below 40%, all bets are off.

It really is safe to assume that when someone isn’t making much eye contact during a one-on-one conversation, they don’t want to be in the conversation.

I like to look at people’s feet in this scenario. If their feet are pointing away from you, they want to make an exit.

My husband used to run a window cleaning company. He said, even when he was certain that he was earning more a year than an individual whose home he was in, they saw what he was doing as socially inferior.

He quickly discovered that people were quite dismissive simply because of the perception. The key is not to take it personally. When people measure social strata (layers of our society), people tend to make a quick call on who they are talking to.

That is why it is fun to watch shows like “Undercover Boss.”

Read what I consider the real tell-tale signs of true confidence here.

We realize that if people knew that they were talking to the CEO of the company, they would show a bit more respect. Of course, these are broad generalizations, but I’m sure you get what I mean.

It’s important that people aren’t making these decisions consciously, they are simply reacting to their perception (of which they are often not aware).

Read more about how to gain social confidence.

The Importance Of Eye Contact

Eye contact is the window to the soul, but it’s also so much more than that. It can be a powerful tool for communication and connection, allowing us to connect with each other in meaningful ways.

We often underestimate its power, but eye contact plays a crucial role in a job interview, in personal conversations, in public speaking, and even in sales pitches. Studies have shown that people who make strong eye contact during a conversation are perceived as more confident, trustworthy, and credible. In addition, making eye contact can help you be more persuasive in any conversation.

But it’s not just about looking someone in the eyes to convey confidence; your eyes also reveal subtle emotions such as happiness, anger, surprise, and sadness. Making and maintaining eye contact is key to understanding the emotions of someone you’re speaking with, which can be helpful in interpreting their intentions.

In today’s digitally-focused world, it’s easy to forget how valuable strong eye contact can be when communicating with others. Although technology makes it easier to communicate than ever before, the power of eye contact should not be underestimated.

It can not only improve your conversation skills but also help you be more persuasive and successful in all types of interactions.

So the next time you’re having a conversation with someone, make sure to do your best to look them in the eyes. It can make a world of difference.

Improving Eye Contact Skills

Here are some 5 tips on how to improve your eye contact skills.

  1. Get out there and practice. The best way to become comfortable with eye contact is to get used to it! Try talking to strangers, making new friends, or even just walking around in public with a purposeful gaze.
  2. Smile warmly when meeting someone’s eyes. This will help put the other person at ease and your eye contact will naturally become more meaningful.
  3. Start off slow. If you’re feeling nervous, take it step-by-step. Start by making brief eye contact and slowly increase the amount of time until you feel comfortable holding a gaze for several seconds.
  4. Break the ice with a joke or funny story. Not only will this help you both relax, but it will also show the other person that you’re confident and comfortable with yourself.
  5. Avoid invading their personal space. Eye contact should be meaningful, but not uncomfortable. Respect the other person’s personal boundaries and watch their reaction to gauge if your level of eye contact is appropriate.
  6. Practice in front of the mirror. This may feel weird the first time you do it but it is an effective way to become more conscious of your eye contact skills. Make sure to smile and make direct eye contact when

A Book You May Be Interested In

The Power Of Eye Contact

Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean when someone looks down and to the left?

They are creating something (could be lying) or they are rebuilding something in their minds, in which they aren’t certain of all the details. They are experiencing something emotionally while they put everything together (could be a disappointment), but probably not deep sorrow, trauma, or shame.

What does it mean when someone looks down and to the right? 

Usually, this is to recall something traumatic or recall something that triggers them significantly on an emotional level.

What does it mean when someone looks up and to the right? 

In this scenario (given the description mentioned above), this would be straight-up memory recall.

What does it mean when someone looks up and to the left? 

They are creating the idea in their head (could be a lie). Watch for the windshield wiper motion. If they move their eyes left to right and then again left to right again, they may be trying to convince themselves of the idea. It’s like they create the idea on the left side and try to drag it over to the right side so they can believe it. Could be a lie, and if their blink rate increases, you should pay close attention.

Kat Clukey

I am so glad you are here, and have chosen to spend your time reading my blog. I'm a Life Coach through the Procter Gallagher Institute . Since 2013, I have been on an intense mission to read books, go to seminars, and generally turn myself inside out to find out why some people seem to feel good in their own skin while I've struggled with self-worth and low self-esteem most of my adult life. I hope you find insights that help you on your journey!

Recent Posts