15 Subtle Ways You Make People Uncomfortable Without Realizing It

15 Subtle Ways You Make People Uncomfortable Without Realizing It

Social cues can be tricky, which means sometimes we’re oblivious to the subtle ways we’re making people uncomfortable. Here are some seemingly innocent habits that might secretly be raising social red flags. With a little self-awareness, you’ll be navigating those chats and parties with ease.

1. You stand way too close.


You don’t know the person you’ve started chatting to, so why are you standing right next to them? Even if it seems like they’re cool with it or there are sparks flying between you, it’s inappropriate because it’s way too familiar. Go on and take a few steps back. There you go. As PsychCentral points out, respecting people’s personal space is an important part of respecting their boundaries.

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2. You gaze at their face a little too intensely.

You know eye contact is crucial to feeling a connection, but you don’t want to be the person who stares or stares at someone so much that they don’t know where to look. It’s like your eyes are a Rottweiler who won’t let go of a bone! Look away from their face every few seconds so you don’t make them feel cornered and you allow them to breathe.

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3. You force small talk.

man and woman talking on city street

Small talk, like chatting about the traffic or weather, is stressful in most social situations. It’s even worse if you’re trying to make it happen and the other person isn’t interested in having a conversation. Honestly, it’s better to excuse yourself from the interaction so you don’t let yourself or them feel anxious.

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4. You compliment them too much.

Dishing someone a meaningful compliment is a nice way to form a connection, but be mindful of not overdoing the praise, Fast Company warns. It makes the person feel weird or self-conscious, or it could put them off you because you’re coming across as insincere. The more you tell them how kind or attractive they are, the less they’ll believe it!

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5. You say “sorry” all the time.

Apologizing to people is a sign that you’re mature enough to step up and take ownership of your mistakes. The catch? If you’re doing it all the time, whether with new people you’ve met or those you’ve known for ages, it comes across as nervous and unsure. People receiving your sorry on repeat routine might not know what to say. Awkward!

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6. You struggle to make decisions.

sad guy looking down outside

Your partner asks you where you want to go for dinner and you say, “Dunno.” Your friend asks if you’d like to go skiing, and you say, “Maybe.” Not being able to make a decision can make people feel put in an awkward situation. It’s a conversation dead-end. Insert cricket noise.

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7. You’re speaking too loud.

It’s not always easy to be wary of your volume in public, but it’s a must. If you know you’ve been way too loud in the past, try to keep your voice down so you don’t make people you’re with feel self-conscious because of all the strangers glaring at your table.

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8. You share private convos with a third party.

two female friends laughing at phone

You’re having such a fun conversation with a friend that you can’t help but include a mutual friend who saunters over at a party. While you might just want to be friendly, you could be making the person you were talking to feel uncomfortable, especially if the conversation had been about their private life. Ouch!

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9. You keep touching them.

Closeness. Young bearded man touching his wifes shoulder and smiling

A huge conversational no-no is reaching out and touching someone who you don’t know or who hasn’t given you permission to touch them. It might be something innocent like touching their arm or elbow, but it can make people want to flinch away from you because you’re getting all up in their space. Again, respect people’s personal space and boundaries!

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10. You give too much info about your life.

Two young adults of African decent, sit at a picnic table outside on a sunny summer day as they discuss social issues and their struggles as young Black adults. They are both dressed casually as they share their stories and concerns.

If you don’t know someone and you’re already trauma dumping on them, it can make them feel like they don’t know what to say. They’re probably wondering why you’d want to offload on them when they don’t even know you or feel like they can help you.

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11. You’ve got bad breath.

You ate garlic bread and then talked someone’s ear off at a party. Yikes. Although you might not realize it, you could be releasing a stench that makes them want to hold their breath until they pass out. Always carry breath mints – you never know when they can help you make a good first impression.

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12. You crack a ton of jokes.

Trying too hard to be funny can make people feel awkward and uncomfortable. It looks like you’re putting in too much effort to impress people, which is cringy. You’re not a stand-up comedian paid to entertain everyone at a social gathering, so take the pressure to be awesome down a notch.

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13. You point at them.

upset woman looking at laptop during meeting

You might not realize what your hands are doing in the middle of a conversation, but if you’re pointing your finger at someone, it can come across as hostile. This is especially the case if you’re talking about something they did to upset you. If you don’t want to be perceived as threatening, keep your hands down.

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14. You watch them do a task.

If you’ve asked someone to do a task for you, it’s quite unnerving to stand or sit right there watching them complete the work. The person will get the idea that you’re hovering around them because you’ve got control-freak tendencies or you doubt their ability to do it properly.

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15. You’re negative about yourself.

Using negative self-talk during conversation gives people the impression that you lack self-confidence or want them to boost your ego. If you’re always doing this, it can make people around you feel awkward because you’re being clingy and fishing for compliments.

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Giulia Simolo is a writer from Johannesburg, South Africa with a degree in English Language and Literature. She has been working as a journalist for more than a decade, writing for sites including AskMen, Native Interiors, and Live Eco. You can find out more about her on Facebook and LinkedIn, or follow her on Twitter @GiuliaSimolo.