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What does it mean when you look into someone’s eyes and they look away?

When you make eye contact with someone and they quickly avert their gaze, there can be several possible meanings behind this gesture. Looking away can signal discomfort, disinterest, attraction, or even deception. The implications will depend on the specific context of the situation and the relationship between the two people. In this article, we will explore some common interpretations of why someone might break eye contact.

Discomfort or Shyness

One of the most common reasons someone looks away when you try to make eye contact is that they feel shy or uncomfortable holding your gaze. Making prolonged eye contact can feel intimate and intense. Breaking eye contact relieves that tension. This reaction is especially common when two people don’t know each other well. The intimacy of eye contact with a stranger can provoke anxiety or self-consciousness. Looking away creates a bit of distance to ease those feelings.

Discomfort with eye contact can also arise from cultural norms. In certain cultures, steady eye contact is considered rude or disrespectful. People from these cultures may instinctively avert their gaze more frequently. Overall, breaking eye contact due to shyness or anxiety is not necessarily a bad sign. It simply reflects that person’s comfort level.

Lack of Interest

Another possibility is that the person looks away because they are not interested in interacting with you. Turning their gaze can be a subtle social cue to end the conversation. Looking away conveys that the person would rather disengage than continue an unwanted chat.

This interpretation is more likely if the glance away is accompanied by other closed off body language, like turning their body from you or leaning away. Rapidly looking away followed by checking a phone or watch also hints that the person is eager to exit the interaction. Lack of interest is a clearer motive when there is no cultural or personal basis for discomfort with eye contact.


Counterintuitively, glancing away can also be a sign of romantic or sexual interest. When there is mutual attraction, prolonged eye contact can feel thrilling yet also intense. Looking away diffuses some of that intensity but allows stolen glances back. A flirtatious back and forth of eye contact, looking away, and reestablishing eye contact creates anticipation and excitement.

Cues like frequent glancing back, smiling, blushing, or fidgeting suggest shyness rather than disinterest is the reason for averting gaze. Tilting the head down but looking up beneath the eyebrows is another way someone may break eye contact while still showing attraction. So if other signals point to flirtation, a coy glance away does not necessarily extinguish hope.


When conversing about a sensitive topic, looking away can signal deception. Liars tend to make less eye contact than truth tellers. Glancing away relieves some of the discomfort and guilt of being dishonest. It also limits their cognitive load as they fabricate information. However, lying is just one potential explanation. Discomfort, anxiety, or cultural norms can also cause someone to look away when discussing personal issues. Consider the context and any other body language cues before concluding dishonesty.

Common Patterns of Eye Contact and Looking Away

The timing and duration of eye contact and looking away reveals a lot about the subtext of an interaction. Here are some common patterns:

Brief Eye Contact, Then Looking Away

Making very brief eye contact then swiftly looking aside signals shyness, anxiety, or a reluctance to engage. The quick glance tests the waters before disengaging. This pattern reflects discomfort with the situation or person.

Looking Away More When Speaking

Some people naturally make less eye contact when speaking and more when listening. Looking away helps them concentrate andAccess their thoughts. Others do the reverse. Neither pattern inherently conveys meaning beyond personal cognitive and conversational styles.

Infrequent Eye Contact

When someone avoids eye contact altogether, it often signals disinterest, distraction, or discomfort. Lack of eye contact can feel cold, distant, or closed off. Very little eye contact may also indicate depression, low self-esteem, or discomfort due to culture or personality.

Prolonged Eye Contact, Then Looking Away

Maintaining eye contact then slowly looking away demonstrates confidence and interest. It satisfies the human desire for connection through eye contact but also diffuses the intensity. Looking downward or to the side is less abrupt than turning the head. This pattern shows engagement and attentiveness.

Looking Over, Then Away When Caught

Making furtive glances at someone before quickly looking away when caught reflects attraction and flirtation. It allows interest to be signaled while maintaining coyness and anticipation. Being caught looking often produces blushing or smiling, heightening the flirtatious chemistry.

How to Interpret Eye Contact and Looking Away

When interpreting looking away, consider details like:


The situation itself provides clues. Is this a social setting like a party or a professional context like the workplace? Flirtation is more likely in social contexts while discomfort may be more likely in formal situations.


The history between two people influences the meaning. Looking away from a partner likely differs from looking away from a stranger or authority figure. Existing rapport provides insight.

Facial Expressions

The emotions conveyed can show if looking away signals anxiety, boredom, attraction, or another sentiment. Take the whole face into account.

Other Body Language

Fidgeting, leaning forward or closed body positions help differentiate interest and engagement from disinterest. Contextual clues matter.

Timing & Duration

Brief glances away differ from completely avoiding eye contact. When and how long someone looks away impacts interpretations.

Cultural Background

Some cultures see direct eye contact as impolite. Consider cultural norms before assigning meaning to looking away.


Shy, anxious, or neurodiverse personality types may naturally avert gaze more frequently due to temperament rather than any meaning. Keep personality in mind.

How to Respond to Someone Who Looks Away

When someone you are conversing with breaks eye contact, here are some productive ways to react:

Allow Space

If you perceive shyness or anxiety, don’t call attention to their looking away. Give them space to feel comfortable. Stay open and undemanding.

Check In

If you notice they are consistently avoiding eye contact, check in politely. Say something like “You seem a bit uncomfortable – are you feeling alright?” Give them an opening to explain.

Focus Elsewhere

If you get the sense they are not interested in talking, politely wrap up the conversation. Don’t force interaction. Distract yourself with something else happening nearby.

Change Subjects

If you notice looking away when discussing certain topics, pivot the conversation to something lighter or less personal. Move to subjects that ease tension.

Consider Culture

Remember cultural context. Don’t take frequent looking away as rude if it aligns with their cultural norms. Adjust your expectations.

Monitor Yourself

Consider if you are making them uncomfortable with intense staring. Practice modulating your own eye contact.

Flirt Back

If you perceive flirtatious signals like coy glances, reciprocate through playful banter and subtle body language. But read their interest carefully before escalating flirtation.

With insight and empathy, you can navigate looked away moments smoothly. Avoid reading too much into passing glances. Focus on making the other person comfortable.

Tips for Making Eye Contact More Comfortable

If you want to put someone at ease in conversation, here are some tips:

Initiate Gradually

Start with brief eye contact and slowly increase duration. This gives them time to get accustomed to it.

Gaze at Their Face, Not Just Eyes

Looking at the whole face comes across more naturally. Locking intensely on just the eyes can feel uncomfortable.

Look Away More When Speaking

Breaking eye contact while speaking reduces cognitive load. This pattern improves flow.

Ask Questions

Asking questions conveys interest. It also shifts pressure away from them.

Smile Slightly

A gentle smile puts most people at ease. Avoid grinning intensely at first.

Relax Your Face

Raising your eyebrows while listening shows openness. Avoid furrowing your brow.

Lean In Moderately

Subtle leaning demonstrates engagement. Overdoing it feels pushy.

Watch for Cues

Note their body language. Pull back if you see signals of discomfort.

Check In

Ask if they feel comfortable. Offer to adjust your eye contact style.

With practice, you can learn to establish eye contact in ways that make you and others feel at ease. Meet people where they are.


When someone breaks eye contact during conversation, they may feel anxious, disengaged, attracted, deceitful, or any range of emotions. Subtle cues like timing, body language, and context shape the interpretation. With empathy and cultural awareness, you can navigate these moments smoothly. Adjust your own eye contact to help others feel comfortable. Consider looking away an opportunity to check in, not a rejection. And remember that a glance away does not necessarily reflect anything about you personally. By better understanding this common gesture, you can have more open, trusting dialogues.