Shameless Staring: When a look is making you uncomfortable

by epi on July 17, 2012

Q: My office has weekly staff meetings.  During these meetings, one of my co-workers stares at me so much that it’s really making me uncomfortable.  I’ve tried holding papers up to block the view, but that seems so rude.  What can I do?

A: A look or glance morphs into a stare when it makes the object of the look feel uncomfortable.  Holding up papers or sitting where the person staring can’t look directly  at you may serve as temporary fixes, but they do nothing to end the problem.  Talking to the person doing the staring is the first step.  You could start by trying a less direct approach: “Lisa, I noticed you staring at me.  Is there something wrong that I should know about?”  Approaching the issue in this way lets Lisa know you’re aware of her staring without making the exchange confrontational and makes it her responsibility to explain her behavior.  If that doesn’t work, you can take a more direct approach: “Lisa, I can’t help noticing you staring at me during meetings.  It’s making me uncomfortable.  Would you please stop?”  If the staring continues, discuss the situation with your human resources officer or your manager.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mariette's Back to Basics July 17, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Dear EPI team,

The Answer given is very well done. Nothing I could add. It is very uncomfortable when one stares like that at another person…
Keep these questions and answers coming at us. The world is starving for them!
Sincerely,

Mariette

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Vanna Keiler July 20, 2012 at 1:15 pm

I agree with the EPI response, but I believe a more direct, quicker response is now needed. It is unfortunate the question asker has allowed this behavior to go on so long, thus inadvertently condoning the (irrational?) behavior. This behavior is distracting during the meeting and incredibly hostile, and the only solution is to call her out during meetings (admittedly confrontational, but you cannot focus on the conversation apparently) or simply tell her to stop staring at you during meetings, before a meeting starts. Since she is your co-worker, not your boss or some higher up in the company, I can only imagine the staring is very unprofessional when she should be focussing herself on the meeting. If it happened to me the next time, I would stare back at her, give her raised eyebrows and shrug my shoulders while mouthing “what??”. If she turns away and no longer looks, your problem is solved. If she continues to stare. I would interrupt the meeting (yes, you need to be brave and be in standing to try this) at some point and say “Excuse me for being off-topic, but Sandy, can you tell me why you keep staring at me during meetings? It is incredibly distracting and I want to focus on the meeting”. Unorthodox yes, but you will also get immediate response and people will also start staring at her from now on to see if she continues, out of curiosity (problem solved!).

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