10 Reasons Why You Make People Uncomfortable (+ How Not To)

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Ever feel like you’re the odd one out? Like you’re the square peg in a round hole; the black sheep in a herd of white?

It’s not just in your head. People are uncomfortable around you.

But don’t worry, you’re not a bad person. You just have some bad habits.

To overcome this, you need to understand three things: why you make people uncomfortable, what to do about it, and how to tell when someone feels uneasy around you.

By the end of this article, you will know several of these things. Of course, this can’t be an exhaustive list because there are many possible reasons. But it’s a great place to start.

10 Reasons People Feel Uncomfortable Around You (+ Fixes)

1. Lack of personal space boundaries.

Socialization isn’t always about what you say and how you say it. It’s also about body language and physical space.

Many people get anxious or uncomfortable when you stand too close to them or “in their space.” Some may see it as intimidating or aggressive, which completely changes the tone of the social interaction.

What should you do?

When talking to someone you don’t know or in public, a good rule of thumb is to be two arm’s length away. That is, if you raise your arm, and they raise their arm, only your fingers would touch.

Some suggest a single arm’s length, but with COVID having been an issue, a little additional space is a choice you can’t go wrong with.

Also, do not physically touch people you don’t know.

2. Making inappropriate jokes or comments.

There’s a time and place for inappropriate jokes or comments. And that place is usually in private with friends that you know won’t be hurt or offended by them.

You will find that people think you’re weird if you don’t know what kind of jokes are appropriate based on the company that you’re in.

What should you do?

Learn what’s appropriate to joke about and what isn’t. A good rule of thumb is to never joke about traumatic experiences like violence or suicide because those have genuinely hurt people.

Avoid inflammatory subjects like politics and religion because people are often serious about their beliefs and do not take kindly to being mocked.

And don’t use insults as jokes or joke about a person’s appearance.

If you want to crack a joke or two, consider the conversation and try to insert something light in there or a funny, relevant anecdote.

3. Not respecting others’ opinions or beliefs.

Not every opinion or belief is worth respecting. Respecting every opinion or belief allows people with evil beliefs that harm others to push their narratives.

However, there’s no great need to argue if it comes to a simple difference in perspectives and opinions.

And if you choose to argue and you do it poorly, it will certainly affect how other people perceive you.

If you want to know how to be polite, respecting a person’s beliefs is a good place to start.

What should you do?

If someone says ugly or nasty things, by all means, speak up if you feel comfortable enough. Otherwise, try to adopt curiosity as a way to approach conversations.

You can tell the person that you’re interested in hearing their perspective, and you’ll find that a lot of people like talking about themselves. That’ll allow you to engage and have a good conversation.

4. Being overly aggressive or confrontational.

Consider how you approach and come off to people. Aggressiveness sometimes has its place, depending on the environment and people you’re around. However, it’s not appropriate in many social situations.

People will flat-out avoid you if you’re aggressive and confrontational; no one can be certain how far you’ll take that. Few people want to get punched in the face or shot by an unstable person. Most will err on the side of their safety, and you will alienate people with gentler personalities.

What should you do?

Many aggressive people don’t necessarily realize they are coming off as aggressive. For example, suppose you grew up in a family where being loud and talking over each other was normal. In that case, that kind of behavior just becomes normal for you.

But when you’re learning how to act normally in a more socially acceptable way, you need to be able to identify confrontational behavior and tone it down.

5. Invading peoples’ privacy and protecting yours.

Privacy is something that people take seriously. It makes people extremely uncomfortable if you get too personal too quickly.

What is too personal?

Avoid asking about specific personal matters. It’s okay to ask questions like, “How is the family?” or “How is your work going?” You might also ask, “What do you like to do for fun?”

These unspecific questions are good grease for the wheels of casual conversation. They don’t put the other person on the spot like they are being interrogated.

What should you do?

Suppose you’re someone who is quick to overshare when you talk about yourself. In that case, you want to take some time to consider some questions for casual conversation. Try not to overshare by trauma-dumping and asking about their similar experiences.

Avoid specific, personal questions like, “Where do you live?” Be mindful of your tone and how you ask further questions so that it doesn’t seem like you’re interrogating the person.

A good rule of thumb is to say, “May I ask…?” Doing so allows your conversation partner to say, “I’d prefer not to answer that.”

6. Speaking too loudly or too softly.

The right speaking voice is important for socializing. If you speak too loudly, you’ll interrupt the people around you and put off the people you’re talking to.

What’s more, people with typical social skills don’t usually want to be the center of attention when it’s not socially appropriate. So if you’re talking loudly, it might cause other people to look in your direction.

Similarly, speaking too softly makes it hard for the other person to hear you, especially in a social situation with multiple people. You want to strive for a middle ground.

What should you do?

Practice. Take some time to look in the mirror and practice. While talking to the mirror, consider your cadence and how loudly you speak in social situations. People tend to speed up their speech when excited, so be mindful of that too.

Avoid interrupting or talking over others when you’re socializing. Being mindful of your tone and presentation will also help you learn to be less self-conscious naturally because you’re practicing to find your comfort level.

7. Being unpredictable or unreliable.

It’s astounding how many people think that being late is just something that other people should deal with.

Of course, stuff happens, and that’s okay.

What’s not okay is to be regularly unreliable or unpredictable because people learn they can’t count on you. And if they can’t count on you, why would they bother being your friend or socializing with you?

“Well, it’s not that big of a deal.” Yes, it is a big deal because other people’s time matters.

What should you do?

Leave early. Plan early. Pack early. Do whatever is necessary to arrive 15 minutes before the meeting time.

If you’re chronically late and can’t figure out why or how to manage it, you may want to consider being screened for ADHD or other mental health conditions that can mess with your “executive function.”

Executive function affects the way you organize and execute plans. Chronic lateness is something often associated with ADHD because of how it affects executive function.

8. Being overly critical or judgmental.

People who are overly critical or judgmental may find themselves alone when those around them get tired of being judged.

“You shouldn’t do this, you shouldn’t do that…” How about minding your business and letting people live their lives?

As long as they aren’t hurting anyone, it doesn’t matter what your opinion is. But if your goal is to alienate other people, that’s a surefire way to do it.

What should you do?

You always have the option to not have an opinion. And if you can’t avoid having an opinion, you can choose not to voice it.

Besides, when you judge others, you deprive yourself of the fulfilling ability to learn from their life, perspectives, and experiences.

Be curious. Take an interest in why other people do the things that they do. You’ll learn a lot, and it’ll help you develop your social skills.

9. Poor hygiene or body odor.

Listen, there’s not a lot to say on this subject. People don’t want to be around you if you smell bad. It doesn’t get any simpler than that.

What should you do?

Personal hygiene can be an embarrassing subject for some people. Most often, the people who are supposed to teach you about hygiene are the adults you grew up with. But what if they aren’t really the parenting type? You can have drastic holes in your knowledge of grooming and personal hygiene.

Bathe regularly (at least every other day), wear deodorant daily, and brush your teeth at least once daily in the morning (preferably when you wake up and go to bed).

Wash your clothes at least once a week, and don’t wear them more than once or twice, depending on whether or not they get too dirty.

Go easy on cologne, perfume, or bold fragrances—they can give people headaches or bother their allergies.

And remember, you typically can’t smell yourself because you get used to your own scent—but other people can. That’s why you need a regular routine.

10. Being overly emotional or dramatic in social situations.

There’s a time and a place for everything. Certainly, there are times to be emotional, and no one will bat an eyelash at it. And some folks are just more boisterous than others.

However, you may find that people don’t want to be around you if you’re overly emotional or dramatic all the time. Fatalists who are happy to tell you how terrible everything is are draining to be around, which is unfortunate.

People moving away from them helps to reinforce their negative perspectives. Still, you want to be measured in your emotional responses and how you respond to others.

What should you do?

The best thing to do is consider recent social interactions where your emotions ran high. Then consider other people around you and how they emotionally responded. Were your emotions at about the same level as theirs?

Being under-emotional is better than being over-emotional. So, if you’re under-emotional, that’s not as big of an issue. But if you’re over-emotional, you may want to take a minute to simply hold your tongue and give yourself a little time to cool off before contributing.

Signs Someone Is Uncomfortable Around You

Identifying when someone is uncomfortable will help you make a good choice to break off the conversation and move on.

Listen, when this happens, you’re going to feel uncomfortable too. It is important that you don’t get mad, lash out, or even take it personally. It doesn’t have to be weird. Just leave the person alone and move on.

If you think they might be uncomfortable, ask them. “Hey, am I making you uncomfortable? I can go if you want.” And if they say yes, then go. That’s it. That’s all you have to do, and you’ll be way ahead of many other people.

But how can you tell when someone is uncomfortable? Here are some common signs.

Abrupt sentences or single-word answers. A person who wants to be engaged in conversation with you will answer in full sentences to allow you to be in that mutual conversation. A person who is disinterested or uncomfortable will typically use short sentences or single-word replies (e.g. yes, no, I don’t know).

Changes in body language. An uncomfortable person may close off their body language. People who are engaged and want to be in the conversation will do things like stand with their arms to their sides or in a more casual manner.

A person who is rigid in their posture, arms folded, and not emotionally reacting with facial expressions is uncomfortable and wants the conversation to end.

A lack of eye contact. A person engaged in the conversation will often make eye contact as it is a normal part of socialization. But an uncomfortable person will often avoid eye contact because they’re worried about saying the wrong thing or trying to indicate that the conversation is no longer wanted.

This can indicate problems like social anxiety or autism, so consider how they answer verbally as well.

But, again, if you’re unsure if they’re uncomfortable, just ask.

Increased fidgeting. When someone is uncomfortable, they tend to fidget more than usual. For example, they may tap their feet, play with their hair, move in their seat, or shift their weight from foot to foot. They may also look around the room instead of at you while you talk.

Silence and hesitation. An engaged person will not typically be silent or hesitate in their answers. Instead, they will want to share with you, so they will be forthright and outgoing. Good indicators of discomfort are the person falling silent, struggling to find words, or seeming to stumble over their words when they do speak.

About The Author

Jack Nollan is a person who has lived with Bipolar Disorder and Bipolar-depression for almost 30 years now. Jack is a mental health writer of 10 years who pairs lived experience with evidence-based information to provide perspective from the side of the mental health consumer. With hands-on experience as the facilitator of a mental health support group, Jack has a firm grasp of the wide range of struggles people face when their mind is not in the healthiest of places. Jack is an activist who is passionate about helping disadvantaged people find a better path.