On this channel, we’ve talked a lot about the subtle signs that can help us tell if someone likes us or is romantically interested in us, but what about the opposite?
Have you ever met someone who acted polite with you but you just couldn’t shake the feeling that they were only pretending? Or thought you were friends with someone only to find out that your feelings were entirely one-sided? If you answered yes to either, then you’ve probably wondered about what are some ways we can tell if someone dislikes us even if we don’t think so or even if they tell us they don’t.
Well, luckily for us, psychology is here to help. And over the past few years, there’s been plenty of studies on the subtle signs that someone secretly dislikes us — which we’ll be talking about in a while — that can help us better navigate our friendships and social lives. So without further ado, here are 7 psychology-backed signs to keep an eye out for if you’re trying to figure out whether or not someone secretly dislikes you:
1. Make you wonder if they dislike you
Intuitively, if you’re starting to get the feeling that someone doesn’t like you even if on the surface it seems like you do, it might be worth looking into. Because those feelings don’t just come from out of nowhere. In their study, “Understanding the Experience of Peer Rejection,” researchers Sandstrom and Zakriski (2004) actually noted that even when the rejection was never outrightly stated or expressed, participants could still “feel it in their gut somehow” that the other person didn’t like them.
2. Non-verbal language
In the same way that we can look to a person’s body language and other non-verbal cues for signs of attraction and interest, we can do the same to pick up on their secret dislike of us. And according to Joe Navarro, former FBI agent, body language expert, and author of “The Dictionary of Body Language,” closed off body language like crossed arms, crossed legs, distance, and shifting eye contact can all indicate “a lack of respect and attention.” More subtle signs also include: pointing their feet or facing away from you when talking to you, discreetly checking the time, repeatedly looking over your shoulder, and a distinct lack of physical contact.
3. Act differently around others
Another tell-tale sign that someone doesn’t like you is if they act differently around you than they do with other people. So take notice of how they interact with you and compare to how they are with their close friends. Are they more polite, more guarded, or more curt with you? Do they not laugh as much or crack as many jokes? Do they seem to be walking on eggshells around you?
While it’s true that it’s quite typical for us to act this way around people we’re not close to or don’t know very well, researchers Lansu, Cillessen, and Bukowski (2013) have also found that these are all signs of something they call “implicit peer evaluation.” That is to say, they act differently around you because they’re still assessing whether or not they can trust you or want to be friends with you. And if they’ve been acting this way for a long while now, then it’s probably because there are certain things about you they dislike.
4. Backhanded compliments
Does your so-called friend often give you snide remarks and back-handed compliments? Or send you mixed signals with their passive-aggressiveness, only to insist that nothing is wrong? Behaviors like this indicate that there might be some lingering resentments between you and your friend. And we all know that nothing ruins a friendship faster than holding onto past grudges and refusing to ever talk about it. They might also be more irritable around you and want to spend less time with you for this very reason, according to a study by Degges-White and Van Tieghem (2015).
5. Self-absorbed conversations
If there’s someone in particular you want to know secretly dislikes you, think back to your last few conversations with this person. What do you usually talk about? If the answer is “usually them and what’s going on in their lives,” then it’s probably safe to assume that this person dislikes you. Why? Well, according to communication expert Amin Mehrabian, who published a study in 2017 titled, “Communication Without Words,” one-sided and self-absorbed conversations signal that this person doesn’t actually like you as a person, but rather, the attention you pay to them.
6. Socially exclude you
Have you ever found out that your friends got together and went somewhere without you? Or that they threw a party and “forgot” to invite you? No matter how good their excuses might seem, if it keeps happening again and again, then it’s intentional social exclusion. And when someone socially excludes you, according to a study by Killen, Rutland, and Jampol (2009), it means that they either dislike you, don’t really consider you a friend, or are friends with someone who dislikes you.
7. Missed calls/left on read
Last but certainly not the least, if you want to know how someone really feels about you, check your phone history with them. How many missed calls did they never return? How many times did they leave you on “read” or “delivered”? According to researchers Yap, Yap, Francisco and Gopez, who published a study in 2021 titled, “From Best Friends to Silent Ends: Exploring the Concepts of Ghosting in Non-Romantic Relationships,” in this day and age of constant connectivity, there’s really no excusing this kind of behavior anymore. Sure, they might just need their space from you or might be feeling socially drained at times. But when it’s just you that they seem to ghost, then it means they’ve either already lost interest or never had it in the first place.
So, do you relate to any of the things we’ve mentioned here? Did going through these signs bring to mind anyone in particular? They say that ignorance is bliss. And it might feel that way if having your eyes opened to these signs hurt you. But trust us, it’s always better to know who your true friends really are.
And if there’s someone in your life right now that secretly dislikes, is only pretending to be your friend, or harboring ill feelings towards you, then you’re better off distancing yourself from these people and not forcing them to like you. Know your own worth, nurture the positive relationships in your life, and let go of the things you can’t control (like how someone feels about you).
If you think there are some signs we missed, let us know in the comments below! What do you think is the best way to tell if someone dislikes us?
- Sandstrom, M. J., & Zakriski, A. L. (2004). Understanding the experience of peer rejection.
- Insider. (2018 Sep 7) “The subtle body language signs someone doesn’t like you, according to a former FBI agent and body language expert.” Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-tell-if-someone-doesnt-like-you-by-looking-at-their-body-language-2018-9
- Lansu, T. A., Cillessen, A. H., & Bukowski, W. M. (2013). Implicit and explicit peer evaluation: Associations with early adolescents’ prosociality, aggression, and bullying. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 23(4), 762-771.
- Mehrabian, A. (2017). Communication without words. In Communication theory (pp. 193-200). Routledge.
- Killen, M., Rutland, A., & Jampol, N. S. (2009). Social exclusion in childhood and adolescence. Handbook of peer interactions, relationships, and groups, 249-266.
- Yap, M. A., Francisco, A. M., & Gopez, C. (2021). From Best Friends to Silent Ends: Exploring the Concepts of Ghosting in Non-Romantic Relationships. International Journal of Multidisciplinary: Applied Business and Education Research, 2(10), 943-950.