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I was on the morning commute via train when I felt the power of a stare burning into the back of my head.
Careful not to look too concerned, I peeked back, only to be faced with two bright green eyes staring at me. It was a guy (an attractive guy), but he was staring right at me without smiling, with an otherwise vacant expression on his face.
Needless to say, it was most disconcerting. I had a few momentary flashes from some horror movies I’d seen, and the hair rose on my neck.
This mask-like poker face was unnerving, and he just kept looking at me! I wondered, “Why do guys stare at me but never smile?”
Have you ever been the object of a deep stare like that by some random guy? Let’s find out what this stare means and whether you should be concerned or intrigued.
Is Staring Rude?
In some countries, staring is considered rude. Most people in the Western world also find staring to be unnatural, to say the least.
A stare is when you look at something or someone without blinking. It’s usually a sign that your gaze has been transfixed due to your mind being elsewhere or totally focused on what you’re looking at.
While a stare isn’t always considered rude, it can also make others uncomfortable. A stare is an ambiguous gaze that may mean a range of things, so being the object of someone’s stare can be very unnerving.
Staring vs Leering vs Ogling
Of course, staring is often used interchangeably with words like “leering” or “ogling,” but they’re not the same thing at all.
A man can stare at a beautiful woman in pure appreciation of what he sees, or he can stare intently at a woman he wants to kill (if he’s Hannibal Lecter).
When a man is leering at a woman, it indicates that he is staring in a nasty way that is meant to make her feel uncomfortable. There’s something vicious about a leering gaze. It’s usually used by a guy who has bad intentions toward a lady.
Ogling is similar to leering, but the difference is that a guy who ogles is visually feasting on what he sees.
Usually, a guy will ogle a girl’s buxom behind or peek at her cleavage. Most often, he doesn’t ogle her face. It’s about instant visually-based sexual gratification.
The Powerful Effects of Smiling
“Life is like a mirror, smile at it and it smiles back at you.” ~ Peace Pilgrim
I was astonished on a recent stop at a mall to notice how many people don’t respond with a smile when I smile at them (and many don’t lead with a smile either).
While we all recognize a smile as being something that indicates happiness, kindness, and friendship, we rarely do it (or you find an artificial smile that only curves their lips but never reaches their eyes).
Smiling has a powerful effect – on the person who smiles and the receiver. And even when a person doesn’t smile, that also has significant effects.
Positive Effects of Smiling
Smiling has a positive effect on us. A smile, like the quote says, is contagious. It’s hard to be grumpy when you see a heartwarming smile directed at you. And the payoff of smiling is also worth a smile!
Some of the positive spin-offs from a genuine smile include:
A 2010 study found that smiling is a predictor of longevity. So smiling will make you live longer as you are generally more content in life.
Smiling helps reduce some of the factors that could lead to an early death. Smiling ensures lower blood pressure, better immunity, and increased muscle tone.
Seeing people smile at you makes you feel better, which also reduces your mortality factors.
When you smile, stress is diminished as cortisol, the stress hormone, is reduced by endorphins and oxytocin, which are produced when you smile or laugh as you feel good about yourself.
When someone smiles at you, it restores your faith that there are kind people in this world, giving you a mental boost.
Yip, there’s a reason why portrait photos usually have us smiling like we’re advertising toothpaste. When you smile, you become much more attractive and beautiful. Wearing a smile tells others you are happy, positive, and fun to be around.
Smiling is also known to relieve pain. When you smile, the body’s pain receptors respond more favorably, and your brain chemistry improves, causing a general sense of well-being.
With so many benefits, who wouldn’t want to smile? This got me thinking about why the guy on the train stared (without smiling) at me?
Negative Effects of Not Smiling
Not smiling can have the opposite effect of all the positives listed above, and there are also more negative results from not smiling.
By not smiling, you are fixating on the negativity of your day. Where you may have felt quite dreadful already, not smiling simply makes things worse.
Left unchecked, the brain dredges up all the negative and paranoid thoughts it can. If only you had smiled, your bad mood would have improved.
Seeing only non-smiling people will also cause your mood to worsen.
When you choose not to smile, your mood darkens, and the people around you may begin struggling to read your mood. It’s the proverbial walking on eggshells analogy.
Smiling regularly helps improve skin elasticity, lessen redness, and better muscle tone. When you smile, it causes a massive boost of endorphins in the body, which helps with that natural glow.
If you don’t smile, you’ll end up with wrinkles and blotchy skin!
15 Reasons Guys Stare at You but Never Smile
If you’ve ever been the object of someone’s stare, you probably wonder what’s behind it. Here are a few reasons why a guy may stare at you without smiling.
1. He Is Shy
Confidence doesn’t flower in everyone’s garden. And guys can be as shy and self-conscious as girls are.
If a guy possibly likes you, but he’s shy, he may stare at you with a very guarded expression because he’s protecting himself from past pain and failure, potentially repeating again.
The serious face and a deep stare may be because of a guy’s lack of confidence. He could be interested in you, but you won’t really know until he opens up and shares. So don’t assume he’s being aloof or grumpy.
2. He Feels Anxious in that Moment
Feeling uncomfortable in a public setting can lead to deep anxiety, which may cause him to stare without blinking or showing any feelings.
The 1,000-mile away stare is a way to protect himself, avoid saying or doing something that makes others aware of their discomfort.
Responding with a reassuring smile may cause him to relax, possibly flashing a smile back.
3. He’s Lost in Thought
A weird thing about the human brain is that we often fixate on a visual spot, without seeing it, when our thoughts are preoccupied. It’s like a brain-freeze, but instead of actually seeing you, he’s staring at the space where you are.
While you may believe he’s staring at you with a distant expression, his mind is actually a million miles away, daydreaming, planning, and rehearsing for a big meeting. A blank stare can indicate he’s zoned out.
4. He’s Neurodiverse
We are only now beginning to understand that not everyone thinks or processes information the same way. A man who stares at you may be neurodiverse, meaning he processes social cues differently or doesn’t register them at all.
He stares because he sees you, finds you interesting, and never realizes his gaze makes you feel uncomfortable or that he should smile or look away.
You can think of this as emotional blindness as he doesn’t realize his action is making you feel confused or even threatened.
5. He’s Trying to “See” You
Some people are cautious by nature, and he may be intrigued by you, but he’s a deliberate thinker and is trying to get a feel for who you are before showing any other signs of interest.
He may stare while he observes your clothes, what you’re busy with, and how you present yourself. You can think of this like someone staring at a work of art – really taking it all in.
If the staring continues without any change in his expression, you can do a quick self-check as your body language may unconsciously be off-putting to him.
Giving him a nod of acknowledgment or a smile of encouragement can help him decide whether to proceed and strike up a conversation or not.
6. He’s Masking His Feelings
I always find this a tricky one, but it’s wise to pay attention to his other body language signs to decide whether he’s socially awkward (and therefore staring), or if there’s a deeper emotion he is concealing.
Look for things like the angle of his head, his body position towards or away from you, and signs of tension.
Something about you may have angered him (hey, we all get associative memories), and he may be processing those old feelings, without fully knowing how to do so and not focusing on the trigger (aka you).
Look at non-verbal cues to decide whether you should move away or try to engage with him.
7. He’s Got the Male Version of “Resting B*tch Face”
Not all of us have an approachable neutral face. His stare may mean absolutely nothing, beyond simply looking at you. So don’t judge quickly as we don’t all have an inviting expression or the friendliest stare.
His stare may have nothing to do with you, and you’ve just crossed his field of vision.
8. His Stare Is About Confidence
In the wild, predatory animals may show their confidence by staring without blinking. He may be doing the same. It’s an innate domination tactic, showing that he is powerful and in control.
By staring and not smiling, he may be expressing his authority and creating a power place for himself in the moment.
9. He’s From a Different Culture
People from different cultures have peculiar habits. In some African cultures, it’s considered rude to make eye-contact, while other cultures see it as being disrespectful to look away first.
Staring at you without smiling may be a peculiarity of his culture, so don’t assume it’s about you. He may be doing what he was raised to do.
If he hails from Pakistan, India, or some South Asian countries, staring is not considered rude at all. While in Japan, India, and Russia, smiling is not encouraged (especially among men), so his form of a compliment may be to stare at you without smiling.
10. He’s Intimidated by You
He could be experiencing a “deer caught in the headlights” moment. Perhaps you are so dazzling that he has frozen in place because you looked at him.
Staring may be how he responds to feeling overwhelmed. Many guys admit to not being able to take their eyes off a lady they like (or one who scares them).
11. He Finds You Hot
Okay, so we’re so accustomed to having a guy make a move or show his interest when he finds you attractive, that we hardly even consider that he may do the opposite.
Yeah, a guy may simply stare at you, building tension, before he finally tells or shows you how he feels about you.
I think of this like the famous scene in The Last of the Mohicans where Hawkeye stares at Cora until he’s sure he has her attention before he finally smiles.
A guy may stare, waiting for you to acknowledge him before he smiles or shows his interest in you. There may be something about you that’s appealed to him, and he could be staring at that feature specifically, which is why there’s a long stare-filled pause.
12. He’s Assessing and Evaluating
Chances are that when a guy is staring, he is evaluating the world around him, taking in a thousand different stimuli, and his eyes are resting on you as a still point in the storm of information.
Depending on the situation you are in, you may find that he is also assessing you before he decides how to act toward you.
13. He’s in a Bad Mood
We can’t always see into the lives of others, and the guy who is looking so grumpy while staring at you may actually be in a bad mood for reasons you don’t know.
He may be staring because he’s had a bad day and doesn’t know how to deal with it without staring at someone in a passive-aggressive mode.
Chances are that he’s angry because of something small you’ve done, like cutting him off as he got on the train or that you’re wearing a color he dislikes. His apparent rudeness may be how he shows his disapproval – or not.
14. He’s Trying to Be Cool
Despite the “real men also cry” take on being in touch with their feelings, men still try to play it cool when they see a woman they’re attracted to. By pretending to be disinterested and just staring, he’s waiting to see if you’ll make the first move.
He may fear that if he acts first, it will scare you off or make him seem desperate, so he plays at being the iceman. The stare but don’t smile approach may be geared at creating a sense of mystery.
15. He Sees You as Hot, But He’s off the Market
Just because he’s already spoken for, doesn’t mean a guy can’t see a beautiful woman and feast his eyes a bit.
Staring may be his way to show appreciation without seeming to make a move on you. He may choose not to smile as he doesn’t want to take this further (he can’t and shouldn’t).
So you may find yourself the object of his admiration for a moment, but no more.
Final Thoughts about Reasons Guys Stare at You but Never Smile
When a guy stares at you but he doesn’t smile, it can be quite unnerving.
You may never know why he didn’t smile, but common reasons for “why do guys stare at me but never smile back” include being in a bad mood, finding you attractive, or feeling anxious, intimidated, or shy.
Cultural differences may also account for him staring and not smiling or he’s simply lost in thought.
So should you worry about the staring but non-smiling man? That depends. You have to trust your instincts, and if you see any red flags that warn you that he may be dangerous, do not engage (even if you think he’s cute).
Don’t make eye contact, don’t smile at him, and divert your attention elsewhere.
If no red flags are present and you are interested, you can smile back, make eye contact, and find some common ground by making the first move and striking up a conversation.
Find out more about how to make people smile today and spread some love and kindness.
And if you're looking for more articles on dating and relationships, be sure to check out these blog posts:
- 7 Steps to Overcome Insecurities in a Relationship
- 16 Things to Consider When Dating a Man with Kids
- 15 Warning Signs That Your Partner Has Commitment Issues