• Few or No Friends

My angry demeanor pushes people away

Published: August 7, 2016 | By | 8 Replies Continue Reading
A reader says that people mistakenly thinks he’s angry.


Hi Dr. Irene,

I moved to a new state before I started high school. I’ve been here for about three years, and well I don’t have any friends.

I have always been the quiet type, but whenever someone talks to me; I’ve always been able to talk to them without a problem. Though the relationship doesn’t last very long. Eventually, they go on their way with their friends.

I’ve never asked to go hang out with anyone after school or to eat with them during lunch. In school, I’ve heard a number of things about what people think of me. They think I look like I’m ready to fight someone, or they think I am mad. Though I’m not angry in school, one guy told me I just give off that vibe of being annoyed with everything.

I don’t really know why. Some people say that it due to my facial expression but I just keep a neutral expression. I would try to put myself out there but I would feel like as if I’m intruding into a friend circle.

What is your take on my situation and is there anything you think I can do in order to change? I would greatly appreciate it.

Signed, Blake


Hi Blake,

I have to commend you for being so open to figuring out what is making it difficult for you to connect with others.

Sometimes, people misinterpret another person’s shyness or quietness as a lack of interest. However, you say that others say you come across as being angry.

Even if you don’t feel that way, if that’s what others perceive, it can be very off-putting. People may even be a bit frightened to approach you.

One suggestion would be to make a video of yourself on your smartphone. Make believe you are speaking to a classmate for a few minutes, perhaps asking if you can join him/her at a lunch table. Then afterwards, analyze the video looks to you:

  • Do you look friendly?
  • Approachable?
  • Do you smile?
  • Do you make eye contact?
  • How does your voice sound?
  • Is there anything else you notice that might be off-putting?

I realize this might be difficult for you to assess by yourself. Perhaps, you could ask a close relative to help you with this exercise. If there is no one to ask you feel comfortable asking, you might even speak to a counselor at school to see if he/she has any suggestions to help you connect with your peers.

It really is terrific that you’ve identified this problem now. Whether you decide to go to college or enter the workplace, it’s important to master the art of making new friends.

Hope this helps.

My best, Irene

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Category: HAVING NO FRIENDS, Social skills and friendship

Comments (8)

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  1. Juniper says:

    I think smiling and saying “hi” first is a good way to signal you’re approachable. Maybe try joining an after school club or team sport. That’s a good icebreaker and way to meet people. You may even have to be upfront with people who talk to you and explain you have a naturally angry looking face. Often once people have an explanation, they are more understanding and accepting.

    Have a laugh with people so they know you’re harmless. Being funny or laughing with other people is the best way to bond with someone. Not sure if its the same where you are, but boys love watching youtube clips (epic fails mostly) together.

    Rather than tackle an entire friendship group, try to befriend one of them who will then invite you in. It can be challenging trying to crack an entire group- especially if you have this reputation.

    I have a stern expression too. I’ve learned to make sure I smile and be extra bubbly when first meeting people. Once they “know” you’re funny and nice, they’ll won;t mind when your face looks a bit scary.

  2. Meorge says:

    You may just be an introvert. It may not be your nature to walk around smiling all the time. That is not a personality flaw. I am in my forties and still have this issue of people thinking that because I am being quiet, thoughtful or not smiling, I am being off-putting. That’s their problem. I am not here to smile at them and engage in inane chit chat. I have learned that people who make these assumptions are not people I tend to like anyway, as they tend to be chatty, shallow extroverts and I do not gravitate towards those people. When someone tells me to smile, I take a cue from Grumpy Cat and say, ” I AM smiling.” The advice from the mother to join clubs sounds like exactly the wrong kind of extrovert advice to me and probably not something you would enjoy. Instead of trying to change yourself, I would explain to people that you just have a neutral expression and that you are not a smiley kind of person. With that in mind, I have had to learn that art of slapping on a smile when approaching people and you may have to, as well. Instead of waiting for people to talk to you, you may have to learn to approach someone you would like to make friends with. There are a lot of strengths to being an introvert and I would suggest that you explore those. There are a lot of books and websites about being an introvert if that is indeed what your personality type is. Good luck.

  3. Ana Wieder-Blank says:

    I think the answer here is way off the mark. I’m actually surprised that nobody else has suggested that you be screened for Autism. An angry resting face is one of the key indicators that you might be on the spectrum. I am also on the spectrum and am often puzzled by people’s reaction to me. I often think that people are intentionally hostile when in fact they are as bewildered by me as I am by them. My intensity and quirks make me who I am, a successful artist, a,passionate activist, and an empathetic and loyal friend. It is not my fault, nor is it your fault that most people misunderstand us, we just happen to speak a different language. Go to your school counselor or ask your parents to take you to a psychologist for a diagnostic evaluation. The sooner you get screened, the sooner you can get help. If you are diagnosed the burden of educating people about asd will unfortunately fall upon you. I used to resent this but now I see it as an opportunity to present my best self to the world and set my own terms about how I engage with people. Good luck and remember this is not your fault.

  4. LauraSL says:

    Practicing with another person is a great idea! When I was young and attempting to switch jobs, I was getting interviews but having no luck landing a new job. An older relative role-played an interview with me and it was such a useful exercise, I still think of it often. You may want to try this on the phone too because even when you can’t see someone you come across differently if you’re genuinely smiling.

    Please take Irene’s suggestion and role-play with a trusted adult.

  5. Linda says:

    As Irene said, I think it’s a great sign that you recognize the need for friendship and want to make positive changes to expand your social life. That’s a great first step — and probably the most important. I believe that if you want to make friends you will find a way to make that happen. I also like the idea of talking to a counselor for tips and ideas — someone who knows more about you and can suggest some other idea that might work for you.

    Generally speaking, I think it’s important to take it slow and easy when starting a new friendship — no matter what your age. Friendships unfold more easily when they are not rushed, and people are more comfortable when they don’t feel pressured in a social situation. ( If you seem needy or desperate for company, that might scare people off.)

    Start by cultivating a positive attitude about yourself. If you like yourself first and feel comfortable with who you are, that will show in everything you do — and people will notice that. Take time, privately, to look at the things you enjoy, things you do well, and all your positive qualities. Remind yourself daily that you’re a positive person with a lot of good things to bring to any relationship. Respect yourself and others will respect you.

    Secondly, focus on your interests. What brings you joy — and are there other people nearby who enjoy these interests? Think about where you can find them. When you have some common interests and hobbies, etc., it will be easier to weave like-minded people into your social life. When you are focused on things you enjoy doing , you won’t be worrying about how you appear to others. That will make it easier for new friendships to grow.

    You sound like a caring person — and I believe things will work out for you. Good luck!

    • LauraSL says:

      Great post, Linda! I’ll also add, clubs and sports (teams or intermural) at school are a great place to make like minded friends. Joining a play, either with a stage role or behind the scenes, is a great bonding experience. Both my kids did this and enjoyed it very much. There’s also the meals out after the practices and other social events that evolve during the practices and preparation.

  6. Amy F says:

    A real smile that reaches your eyes goes a long way to making yourself look friendly and approachable.

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