11 Subtle Signs Someone May Be Uncomfortable Around You

Ad failed to load

It can be tough to predict which situations or topics of conversation might make someone else might feel weird, and it can be even more difficult to pick up on the subtle signs someone is uncomfortable around you. And yet, the more we can pay attention to their body language, the more seamless our social interactions can be.

The same goes for avoiding certain mistakes that can make others feel uncomfortable in the first place — since that's rarely anyone's intention. "Invading a individual's personal 'real estate' is a great way to make someone uncomfortable," body language expert Maryann Karinch, author of The Art Of Body Talk, tells Bustle."Depending on culture, personal preference, and other factors, each of us has established what is acceptable proximity." And if you accidentally overstep that, you can make someone feel uncomfortable.

Another common mistake is talking too loud — especially if you happen to be telling an embarrassing or personal story in a pubic space. If you catch yourself possibly making others uncomfortable, it's OK. We've all done it. And Karinch says all you have to do is apologize. It's all about being aware, and making little adjustments. But it's also important to note that someone's discomfort may not be your fault — some people may be uncomfortable in social situations to begin with, so it's important to take this into account when reading people's body language.

Ad failed to load

If you notice some of the signs below, experts say it may be time to back up a bit or give someone their space.

Ad failed to load

1They're Flinching Or Wincing

Hannah Burton/Bustle

Being stuck in an uncomfortable situation is never fun, and it can even cause people to literally wince. "When you make someone uncomfortable and they don’t want you to know, they will flinch or wince slightly," nonverbal communication expert Alison Henderson tells Bustle. "The flinch will be a quick contraction of the torso away from you. The wince will be a facial expression where they quickly squint the eyes," she says. "You may think they just stubbed their toe or gave themselves a paper cut because it is like they are verbally saying, 'ouch.'" If you pick up on this, take note of what may have caused this reaction. As Karinch mentioned, a quick apology will suffice to put the moment past you.

2They Seem To Be Backing Away

David Pereiras/Fotolia

When someone's uncomfortable, they may take a step back without even realizing it. "If they can’t move away, they will close off as much as they can by turning away, retreating in the torso, or crossing their arms and legs," says Henderson. This is some blocking body language, that we all do subconsciously to protect ourselves. But no need to worry — if you notice you accidentally stepped into someone's personal space, take a step back yourself and allow them the space they need to feel comfortable.

3They're Blocking Themselves Or Crossing Their Arms

kichigin19/Fotolia

Another blocking technique? If someone is uncomfortable, they may literally block themselves with a bag, a book, or whatever else they happen to be holding. "[They] will place whatever they are holding ... in between you to create a barrier to the behavior they don’t like," Henderson says. But try not to take this too personally — just take note of their reaction, and see what adjustments you can make, if possible, to help them feel more comfortable while also keeping in mind their reaction may be out of your hands.

Ad failed to load

4They've Started Gesturing And Talking Faster

David Pereiras/Fotolia

When someone feels uncomfortable, and a sense of fight-or-flight kicks in, they may start gesturing wildly. And they might even start talking faster. "They will feel their heartbeat and breath quicken," Henderson says. "This will be followed by their gestures and speech accelerating in an attempt to end the conversation more quickly and leave the situation. It will feel like they suddenly become fast and abrupt." But this may not be your fault — the person may just feel uncomfortable in the situation in general.

5They Seem To Be Laughing Nervously

beeboys/Fotolia

Nervous laughter is another thing to watch out for, as it is different from real laughter and may be a sign someone is uncomfortable. "Nervous laughter [may] erupt," Henderson says. "As a way to release the uncomfortable tension they are feeling, [an uncomfortable person] may laugh or giggle at odd things."

6Their Voice Is Going Up An Octave

klublu/Fotolia

Nervousness can come out in the form of a squeaky, loud voice, again due to increased stress. "The voice will rise in pitch and sound more shrill," Henderson says. "As the individual’s stress rises, tension also rises and this will constrain the vocal chords."

Ad failed to load

7They Keep Looking Away

oneinchpunch/Fotolia

If someone keeps glancing over your shoulder, down the block, or at their watch, take note. "That may be an indicator that you are either dominating the conversation or that it is a conversation the other person is not interested in," life coach Dr. Ty Belknap tells Bustle. "Take a break from talking and ask the other person what they think or their views on the subject; then let them talk without interrupting. This will let you know whether it is a conversation they want to continue."

8They're Giving One-Word Answers

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

If someone is only managing to give one-word answers, they may be distracted, or shy. But since it's also a thing people do when they're uncomfortable, it may be worth re-evaluating. "You may be talking with a person and skillfully asking them their opinion at times like a good conversationalist, but they answer with only one or two words," Belknap says. "It may seem like pulling teeth just to get them to say anything. There could be several things for this: You may have strayed onto a subject that is embarrassing to them or one that they know nothing about. Take a mental step back and evaluate the conversation. It might be a good time to say 'good talking to you,' and move on."

9They're Trying To Soothe Themselves

boryanam/Fotolia

A natural reaction to feeling uncomfortable is to self-sooth. "You notice the person has started using a self-soothing gesture we call an 'adaptor,'" says Karinch. "This might be playing with an earring, clicking a pen, rubbing fingers together, twirling hair, and the like." So if you see that, take note, and maybe make subtle readjustments if necessary.

Ad failed to load

10Their Ears Are Getting Red

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

If you're someone who blushes when they're nervous or embarrassed, then you already know a beet red face can be a sign of discomfort. But some people blush in less obvious ways. "Watch for ears getting red," says Karinch. "Blood flows there before it gets to the face." So it may be an early indicator they're feeling out of place.

11They Keep Scratching Their Nose

klublu/Fotolia

Believe it or not, increased blood flow to the face can cause someone's nose to be itchy. "The human nose has an enormous number of blood vessels. Under stress, blood flow increases, and as a lot of extra blood comes into the nose, it itches," Karinch says. Sure, they may just have an itch. But it could also be a sign they're feeling uncomfortable.

Body language can tell us so much when it comes to figuring out if someone is uncomfortable. If you find that you are the source, more often than not, a quick apology followed by giving someone space could be all it takes to make them relax. But if a person isn't comfortable, that doesn't mean you're the direct cause. People get uncomfortable for all sorts of reasons — their past, their beliefs, certain biases — and that can be beyond your control. It's also not your job to make everyone comfortable all the time, especially if that discomfort stems from your self-expression and authenticity. Instead, the best you can do is be conscious of others' around you, but not let it stop you from being who you are.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

The 5 Rom-Coms You Need To Read This Summer, According To Someone Who Writes Them

'Tis the season for rom-coms. The weather is warm, the sun is shining, and everyone is rocking the flirtiest items in their wardrobe. I don't know about you, but summer always takes me back to my teenage years — and that automatically makes me want t…
By Cristina Arreola

11 Tiny Sunglasses That Will Make You Look Even Cooler Than Kylie Jenner

You know what they say — the tinier the sunglasses, the more stylish the outfit. OK, that's not really a saying, but it seems to be the case these days. Basically every celebrity, model, and It person has been spotted sporting tiny sunglasses as part…
By Sara Tan

9 Ways This Royal Wedding Was Way More Modern Than Past Ones

The newly named Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, made history with their storybook courtship and wedding. What's more, there are myriad ways the royal wedding 2018 was more modern than previous royal weddings. From deciding…
By Brandi Neal

10 Little-Known British Traditions Meghan Markle Will Learn When She Marries Prince Harry

As an American woman dating a Brit, I am no stranger to the mishaps that can result from the cultural differences between the U.S. and England. And while I'm sure Meghan Markle has a slew of royal traditions to learn, titles to remember, and fancy ha…
By Kristin Magaldi

I've Paid $18,000 To A $24,000 Student Loan, & I Still Owe $24,000

It all became real the summer before my senior year of college. It was 2010, and my home phone still had a cord, which I wrapped around my fingers as I waited not-so-patiently for the apathetic representative on the other end to tell me the bad news …
By Kaitlyn Cawley

12 Personality Quizzes That Will Help You Determine Your Exact Strengths

Learning more about yourself can be tough. It's so easy to observe others to learn what makes them tick, what areas they really excel in, and the things they could be better at. Doing that to yourself, however, is a whole different story. That's exac…
By Jessica Booth

5 Brand New Short Story Collections You Can Finish In One Sitting This Weekend

Since 2013, May has been known by book-lovers by another name: Short Story Month. If you're ready to kick off this year's celebration the right way, make sure to pick up a short story collection to read over the weekend. Modern life moves more than …
By Sadie Trombetta

I Got Styled By 'Queer Eye's Tan France & Realized I Still Have A Lot Of Fashion "Rules" To Unlearn

When I walked into a New York City Express store on May 2 to get styled by Queer Eye's Tan France, I was ready for anything. And I mean truly anything. I am such a massive fan of the show and Tan that if he had instructed me to wrap myself in tin foi…
By Olivia Muenter

It Isn’t Bad To Have A “Princess Fantasy” — Mine Made Me The Woman I Am Today

What do you want to be when you grow up? If you were anything like me as a kid, at some point, the answer to that question was "a princess." Thanks to good old-fashioned gender stereotypes, most little girls born in the '90s (and even now) grew up in…
By Nicole Pomarico

9 Mother's Day Gifts For Your Mom That Also Give Back

Mother’s Day is around the corner, and unless you’re the type who’s got gift-giving on lock months in advance — and seriously, who is that person? — you might be scrambling a bit for great Mother's day 2018 gift ideas. And while it’s important to cho…
By Carolyn de Lorenzo

Here’s How To Get A FREE 30-Minute Facial At Sephora That Sucks Your Pores Clean

Sephora has long been a mecca for both serious and amateur beauty lovers alike, where they not only have makeup artists that help answer questions about products, but free samples to let you play with new collections. But now they have upped the ante…
By Marlen Komar

Kris Jenner Is FINALLY Launching A Makeup Line With Kylie

Maybe you don't have a favorite sister of the Kar-Jenner clan, and that's perfectly fine. The one thing you can't deny, though, is that when it comes power, no one in that family has more than the world famous momager. Now, Kris Jenner x Kylie Cosmet…
By Shea Simmons

This Kendall Jenner “Diva” Moment Is Really Being Taken Out Of Context

The fashion always takes center stage at the Met Gala, but there's usually a little drama, too. And this time, a member of the Kardashian-Jenner family is involved. People are buzzing about how Kendall Jenner shoved someone at the Met Gala, but after…
By Nicole Pomarico

Feel Like You've Seen Everything On Netflix? Add These Movies To Your Watch List

The weekend may feel too far away, but if you're lacking formal plans, a Netflix marathon session is always a good idea. If you're an avid viewer, however, you probably feel like you've seen everything the streaming platform has to offer already. In …
By Ashley Rey

These 4 Zodiac Signs Are Going To Have The Best Luck In Love This May

Spring fever is here, but not all signs in the zodiac are dealt the same dose of lovin'. Some signs are going to have a better love lives than the rest of us in May, because that's just the way the cookie crumbles. According to astrologer Linda Furia…
By Kaitlyn Wylde

Hillary Clinton Says She's Ready To Fight Like A Republican — EXCLUSIVE

Hillary Clinton Is Not Going Away Quietly. Can Hillary Clinton Please Go Quietly Into The Night? Unlike Losers Before Her, Clinton Is Not Going Gently Into the Night. These headlines, which appeared in various news outlets over the course of the last…
By Catherine Thompson and Jenny Hollander

Here's The Very Best Time To Book Your Summer Vacation If You're Trying To Save Money

Summer is a great time to travel, for obvious reasons. The weather is better. Many offices are more lax about time off. If you have kids, they’re out of school. But there’s one very important element that makes summer not a great time to travel: Cost…
By Emma McGowan
)}