Growing up, it wasn’t uncommon to ask people, Do you have a staring problem? I have no idea how that phrase integrated itself into our collective social consciousness, but anyone who looked at you for even a moment was at risk of being asked this pointed question. No one wanted to be asked this question. It was the height of social embarrassment.
Staring is generally considered impolite, but it can also communicate interest and attraction. Sometimes, staring is the natural byproduct of watching a spectacle of some kind. For instance, two strangers having a loud public argument could draw stares. Other times, you might feel so incredibly attracted to someone that you can’t help sneaking looks in their direction.
But what about guys that stare but never smile? What does that mean? Do they have “a staring problem” or does it mean something else entirely?
Why Do Guys Stare at Me but Never Smile? 16 Possible Reasons
Have you ever asked yourself, Why do guys stare at me but never smile? If so, you might have already tried to solve the mystery of this behavior. You can come to many different conclusions but still wonder if your supposition is anywhere near the truth. Here are 16 possible reasons that he’s staring at you but not smiling.
He’s In a Bad Mood
It’s possible that the guy is staring at you and not smiling because he’s in a bad mood. He could be having a bad day or a series of them. As much as you want to take this personally, he could just be looking in your direction while ruminating over a difficult situation. It’s not personal. Or, if it is personal, his bad mood might be to blame. You might not have done anything wrong. He’s just feeling his feelings and happens to be looking in your direction while he’s feeling them.
It’s also possible that he’s staring at you but not smiling because he’s lost in thought. He might not be intentionally staring. It’s possible he’s lost in thoughts of you, but it’s more likely that he’s staring in a general direction while thinking. Don’t take his serious face personally. If he’s working something out in his head, it might not have anything to do with you.
You might consider that the guy who stares without smiling could be shy. He just might not be the kind of person to approach a stranger. Even if you’re not a stranger to him, he might have a serious face on because he is introverted or shy and isn’t one to instigate conversation. Sometimes, people could seem grumpy, judgmental, or sullen when they’re really just shy and trying to manage their feelings.
He’s Attracted to You
It’s possible that he’s staring without smiling because he’s attracted to you. He could be using eye contact as a way of ascertaining if you’re interested in him, too. This could be his way of seeing if he should make a move or not. His intense, unsmiling gaze could be an overture toward you.
He Is Attracted to You but Fears Rejection
Another possible reason he’s staring but not smiling at you is that he’s attracted but fears rejection. He might be intimidated by you or think you’re out of his league. He might like you but not know if you’re in a relationship or not. His staring with a serious face could be because he’s thinking about approaching you but is worried it won’t go well for him.
Even the most confident people can fear rejection. It’s a human experience. No one wants to be vulnerable and face rejection. His serious face could be because he’s trying to figure out if it’s worth the risk of approaching you or if he should wait to see if you’ll approach him.
He’s Behaving Culturally Appropriate
It could be cultural. In some cultures, smiling is considered inappropriate or a sign that the person smiling is less intelligent. In Russia, Japan, India, Iran, and South Korea, smiling isn’t a commonly accepted social behavior. His serious face could be an attempt to convey maturity and intelligence according to his cultural values.
Social-emotional agnosia, also known as emotional blindness, can be common in people who are autistic or neurodiverse. Smiling in a social situation might not be their natural inclination. Because many neurodiverse people with emotional blindness can overlook social cues and nuance, it’s possible that they might stare without smiling and not perceive how this could be confusing to someone else.
He’s Reading the Room
It’s also possible that a guy who’s staring but not smiling could be trying to read the room to decide if you would welcome his approach. He may be looking for returned eye contact, a friendly look, or some other sign that you’re open to conversation. This shows emotional intelligence. He could be aware that his approach might not be welcome and wants to take extra time to assess the situation.
He’s Mad at You
Another reason he could be staring at you with a serious expression could be that he’s actually mad at you. People with anxiety will automatically jump to this conclusion, but it is one possibility. You might have cut him off in traffic, or you could be wearing a political symbol or piece of apparel he finds offensive. He could have made assumptions about you without knowing the full situation, or he might have witnessed you being rude to a server and showing his disapproval.
There could be a million reasons this random guy is mad at you. Just keep in mind that there are many other reasons why he’s staring with such a serious face. However, think back on your behavior and make sure that you haven’t inadvertently offended someone. It’s possible that he’s staring because of some social faux pas you haven’t realized you committed.
You Remind Him of Someone Else
You might also consider that he’s staring because you remind him of someone else. He could be trying to figure out if he actually knows you from somewhere or if you just look like someone he knows. If he comes up and asks you, it’s going to sound like a bad pickup line, so he might sit there with a serious face and try to figure it out for himself.
He might know you look like someone else, but it’s someone he doesn’t like. If you remind him of a toxic ex, his sour face could be an indication that his thoughts are on that situation and have little to do with you. It’s not your fault you remind him of someone, but his face could be reflecting his thoughts about that person and not of you at all.
He’s Got Resting Bruh Face
You’ve probably heard of RBF. While it’s traditionally known as Resting B---- Face, I’ve decided to rechristen it Resting Bruh Face for our purposes. If you have a child who calls you “bruh” when he’s exasperated, you’ll know exactly what I mean. It’s possible he’s staring without smiling because he has RBF. That’s just the way his face looks, or it’s also possible he’s got other things going on and it’s just stuck in that position while he deals with it.
No one owes anyone else a smile. His Resting Bruh Face may annoy you, but you don’t have to take it personally. It’s possible it has nothing to do with you at all.
He Has Anxiety
You should also consider that the guy who stares at you but never smiles could have anxiety. Social anxiety is tough. He might feel panic at the thought of walking over to you and introducing himself. Even if he knows you, he might not be comfortable initiating a conversation. You might think he’s this confident, attractive person, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t also struggle with anxiety. His serious face could be reflective of him managing his anxious thoughts and trying to regulate his emotions.
He’s Attracted But in a Relationship
Another potential reason for the unsmiling stare could be that he’s attracted to you but not single. If he’s in a relationship, he could be working through his attraction while knowing it would be wrong to approach you. It doesn’t matter if he’s happy in his relationship or not. He could be struggling with the ethical conundrum of being in a relationship and finding you attractive or compelling at the same time. His serious face could reflect his inner struggle.
He’s Overthinking It
Another option for the staring without smiling is that he’s overthinking, well, everything. He might think you’re attractive and wonder if you find him attractive. He might consider approaching and then ruminate on what happens if you reject him. He might also worry over what happens if you accept his overtures. If he’s an anxious person or just someone prone to overthinking, it’s entirely possible that he’s reviewing every possibility of initiating an interaction or not initiating one. The serious face could be because his brain has run amok.
He’s Playing It Cool
He might also be staring but not smiling because he’s trying to play it cool. He could be hiding his emotions and trying to present a calm, controlled front. It could be because he genuinely thinks this is a great way to attract a potential partner. He might have learned that it’s best not to appear too eager — either because of past experience or societal conditioning. His serious face could be a way of maintaining a little mystery so that he doesn’t appear too interested at the start.
I would be remiss to not include predatory behavior on this list. If your gut tells you that this guy is bad news, he probably is. His unsmiling stare could make you uncomfortable. Researchers have found that anywhere from three to nine seconds is plenty of time to hold eye contact. Anything longer than that is generally considered inappropriate. It’s possible that you’re picking up on predatory and aggressive behavior. He might be trying to intimidate you. Hopefully, this isn’t the case but always pay attention to your gut feelings.
What to Do If a Guy Stares at You but Never Smiles
If he’s staring at you but not smiling, you can speculate all day about the reasons why and never learn the truth. Or … you can decide to find out for yourself why he’s doing this. It might take courage, but it’s the only way you’re going to ever know for sure.
Honestly, this is one that will require your personal discretion. For instance, if you’re alone or in a secluded environment, this might not be your smartest move. However, if you’re in a safe, public place, you might ask him directly why he’s staring. Keep in mind that your tone may impact his response.
If he’s making you uncomfortable, tell him straight out and ask him to stop. If you’re interested in him and wondering if he’s interested in you, you might want to be flirtatious when you ask him why he’s staring. If you have no idea what he’s staring at and are just curious, maybe try a tone of concern. You could ask if he has a staring problem, but no one in the history of the world has ever responded positively to that statement.
If a direct confrontation is outside your wheelhouse of responses, consider staring back. Have fun with it. Play the staring game to see if he blinks first. Make goofy faces at him. Stare back with the world’s biggest smile.
Not only is this a fun way to handle it, but it could have him realizing that he’s randomly staring at you (in case he didn’t mean to). If he’s interested, it could be an invitation to strike up a conversation. It might even make him laugh. However, if he makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe in any way, staring back with a serious expression could let him know that you see what he’s doing and aren’t okay with it.
You know that popular human trafficking saying “see something, say something”? If you see something that’s making you uncomfortable, let someone know. If your gut feeling says this guy staring is bad news, text a friend, tell someone nearby, or even take a picture of him and send it so that someone knows this is the person making you feel ill at ease.
If you’re at a bar or restaurant, communicate your concerns to a member of the staff. They’ll often keep an eye on you and even make sure you get safely to your car. You might be overreacting, but this is one of those situations where it’s far better to be safe than sorry.
Make a Move
If you are attracted to him and suspect he’s attracted to you, you don’t have to wait for him to make a move. You can approach and start a conversation. You’ll figure out quickly if he was interested and staring on purpose or if he was just spaced out and his staring was on accident. Either way, you’ll have your answer, and you won’t have to wait around for him to get up the nerve to approach you.
It’s a little weird when someone stares but doesn’t smile. It can be difficult to read — especially if you’re neurodiverse or struggle with anxiety. You can make all the assumptions you want about why they’re doing it, but you won’t really know unless you ask.
The truth is, it might not be personal. He could be deep in a daydream or thinking about the plot in a movie or planning out a difficult conversation in his head. He could also be staring because he’s interested and attracted but not actually available.
You could probably think of a laundry list of reasons why he’s staring, but are you brave enough to discover the truth? You could risk rejection. You could have an uncomfortable conversation. Or you could solve the mystery and gain a friend in the process — or maybe something more.
Originally published on The Truly Charming