“Why Do People Stare At Me?” A Qualified Answer

I got an interesting question a few days ago from a reader of the social confidence newsletter. He noticed that very frequently, in buses, on the street, in the supermarket, while waiting in line, people look intently at him. So he asked me: “Why do people stare at me?”

It’s not that “Dang! You’re hot!” kind of stare that a very attractive woman may get, it’s more like that “Wow! You’re weird!” kind of stare.

This isn’t by any means the first time someone asks me: “Why do people stare at me?” As a social confidence coach, I get this question a lot. In this article, I’d like to provide a thorough, qualified answer to it, and show you how to amend this situation to boot.

In my experience, there are 3 major reasons why people may gape at you. In more than 95% of cases, one or more of these reasons offer the complete explanation.

1. There Is Something Quite Odd about Your Appearance

First and foremost, your appearance may be markedly bizarre, and this is what gets people’s attention and makes them gawk.

I’m not talking about the way you look physically per se. Being fat, skinny, short, bold, Asian, Indian or whatever rarely gets stares in this multifaceted society. I’m talking about the way you dress and take care of yourself.

It’s common for people who get lots of stares to be utterly careless or clueless regarding clothing, grooming and personal style.

It’s like they never look in the mirror. They go out with unkempt hair and baggy clothes, they choose horrible clothing combinations, and their overall appearance is extremely sloppy. This is what gets noticed and it often makes others gawk.

staringNext time before you go out, take a good look at yourself in the mirror. Note your clothes, their fit, your hair, your posture and your overall look. Try to observe yourself as if you’re observing another person that you’re seeing for the first time.

And notice: is something off about your appearance? Do you look eerie or unappealing in some way? If so, it’s time to start taking better care of the way you dress and present yourself visually.

You may be a very cool person on the inside, but if you dress sloppy, the first impression you create will be the very opposite of that.

2. Anxiety Is Messing Up the Message Your Project

It’s no coincidence that almost every person who perceives that others often stare at them feels nervous in social settings. Some of them have actually being diagnosed with social phobia or even AvPD.

You see, when you’re in a social setting and you feel anxiety, this will screw up your non-verbals, especially your facial expression. You’ll have this frozen, terrified look on your face, your eyes will be very wide open and your face color will likely be very pale.

This gets people’s attention and shocks them. So they’ll have the tendency to stare at you, perhaps even say to others: “Look at this guy/girl! He/she looks like they saw a ghost or something!”

Then you’ll realize others are gawking at you, which will make you self-conscious, which generates even more anxiety, so you look even more terrified, and the whole thing spirals.

In my experience, this is the most common reason why people stare at you. It is fundamentally an anxiety-related issue. And the only real solution is to deal with this root cause: to overcome your anxiety related to social settings.

Fortunately, effective, well-researched methods for overcoming anxiety exist today. Your job is to learn them and apply them.

I don’t want to go into this extensive topic here, but I do encourage you to check out this free presentation I designed, in which I cover this exact topic and I’ll show you the steps to take in order to build rock-solid social confidence. Please make sure you watch it.

3. It’s Largely Just In Your Head

It is also very possible that people in general don’t stare at you that much. No more than they stare at anybody else (yes everybody gets occasional stares), or at least not much more

However, your mind makes it seem that people stare at you all the time, when this actually occurs infrequently. What happens is that, since staring makes you feel uncomfortable, you notice it a lot and you remember it vividly.

You’re very aware of the situations when others gape at you, but completely unaware of the many situations when they don’t. This makes your mind overgeneralize and create the erroneous impression that people stare at you all the time.

Nevertheless, the reality is far from that.

This is something you can overcome by paying more attention to the situations where others do not gawk at you or they don’t even notice you, bearing them in mind, and then trying to objectively asses how frequently do others truly gawk at you.

You’ll likely find out it’s only in a small number of cases.

That’s it: my answer to the puzzling question: “why do people stare at me?” Take this info, put it into practice and see what happens. I think you’re gonna love the results you’ll achieve. And above all, work on building your social confidence. I will make the biggest difference.

Image courtesy of Chibcha

What Do You Do For a Living? The Better Way to Answer

What do you do for a living?” – I ask him eager to do some chill networking. As I say this, my mind is automatically thinking: “Here comes another crappy answer I’ll have to work with”.

You might say that’s pessimistic of me; I say it’s more of an educated guess. It’s not that they’re not a lot of people out there with interesting jobs they’re passionate about. It’s just that they haven’t learned or haven’t considered the people skill of talking about them in a powerful way.

You see, answering “What do you do for a living?” in a stylish way is a great method to get the other person interested in the conversation, in your person, and to brand yourself. As a communication coach, there are a number of things I find important in answering this question.

Use a Suggestive Title for What You Do

It’s not important to use the exact job title in your job description in a conversation, even if it’s a business conversation. I sometimes meet a person who according to the JD is an ‘Executive Assistant’, but their job is much more of an HR job. ‘HR Assistant’ works a lot better as a title for them.

The point is to use a job title that realistically reflects the nature of the things you do in your job or the type of impact you have.

There is one answer to “What do you do for a living” that I find particularly bad: “I’m a consultant”. That doesn’t tell me shit about your job! They’re a zillion consultants out there.

Be Memorable

Some titles, they may be suggestive for what you do, but they simply aren’t remarkable in any way. Of course, there are plenty of ways to be memorable; you don’t need to desperately seek being memorable through your job title, but it is certainly a big bonus, especially in jobs where personal branding matters the most.

This is why I encourage you to use a memorable title for your job. Alain Cardon could have called himself a ‘Life Coach’, but he calls himself a ‘Breakthrough Catalyst’. Mars Dorian could have called himself a ‘Blogger’ but he calls himself a ‘Digital Crusader’. These are the kind of titles that stand out and they stick.

Follow-Up with an Exciting Explanation

After you’ve said your job title to answer the question, do not stop there. A title may be cool, suggestive and sexy, but it’s still only a title.

You want to do is continue with a short and powerful description of your job. Again, it’s important to remain clear and memorable. Some things to consider adding to this description are:

  • What you do exactly. Ex: “I speak on the area of Customer Service at conferences all over the world”.
  • What practical benefit you create: Ex: “I help organizations improve they way they interact with their customers and increase customer loyalty”.
  • Why what you do is important for you. Ex: “I believe that good results start with good customer service”.

But Eduard, What If I Have a Job I Hate and I Don’t Want to Talk About?

For this not so uncommon scenario, the first significant thing I can tell you is that you’d better at least have an aim for a different career and know what that career is.

Based on this, when you answer the question you can name your current job and then quickly move on to talking about the job you’re aiming for.

You may say something like: “I now work as a Sales Agent in an FMCG company, but I’m training to become a Career Coach. I have a passion for helping people find their way”.

The more you master your people skills and the better you present yourself, the more you “attract” all sorts of remarkable people and breathtaking career opportunities. And it often all starts with answering in style one simple question.

Image courtesy of Lucid Dreams

Sometimes Forgiveness Isn’t the Answer

This guy I know, he has a habit of making fun of other people he knows in various social contexts (parties, discussions, meetings etc.). My theory is he does this mostly to attract attention and show off. A while later, he will be talking to the person he made brutal fun of and saying: “I hope you didn’t take my jokes seriously. I was just having some fun. I’m sorry if they affected you!

This is his way of asking for forgiveness, which almost always works. I know that forgiveness is seen across the globe as a virtue, but I think there are cases in which it’s a weakness people can use to manipulate you. This is one of those cases.

Forgiveness is a complicated and slippery word. Its exact meaning is hard to pin down. What does a person mean exactly when she is asking forgiveness? Is it just an emotional thing? The way I see it, she is actually asking for 3 things, the last 2 things being a bit more subtle. She is asking that:

  • You don’t feel bad or angry at her for what she did;
  • You don’t form a negative perception about her for what she did;
  • You don’t change your behavior towards her in a negative way.

The first part, I think it’s a good idea. Whenever someone does something towards you that you don’t like, get over it emotionally as fast as possible. Not for that person, but for you. The other two, well, that’s where I have a problem with forgiveness.

When the guy I was talking about asks for forgiveness, he is actually saying “Don’t’ feel bad”, but he is also saying “Don’t think of me as a mean person” and “Don’t stop being my friend or helping me, just because I made fun of you repeatedly”. Doesn’t it sound like an arrogant, selfish and absurd request when you put it this way?

People fall into this trap every day. Because we are taught that if a person is really sorry for something she did, she apologizes and seems to be hurting, then we owe her as decent human beings to forgive her (according to the definition of forgiveness presented above).

We don’t. Talking in terms of equity, it is natural and effective to change your perception about a person’s character depending on her consistent behavior patterns, as well as your own behavior towards her. It’s how things go with mature, responsible people.

Asking forgiveness is often just a way for a person to not assume true responsibility for her behavior and its consequences.

My advice: whenever a person repeatedly asks forgiveness from you for a repeated behavior, give her just the first part of forgiveness. And tell her that. Let her know that you got over they way she acted, but it does influence your perception of her and your behavior towards her. And if she doesn’t like that, let her give some forgiveness.