First impressions may be crucial, but they’re not always accurate.
We often rush to make judgments of a new person based on flimsy evidence, never bothering to look beyond the surface.
This can mean frequent misunderstandings–something that, over time, can be problematic.
There are genuinely kind and deeply compassionate people out there who are labeled cold or standoffish, when, in fact, they’re just shy or reserved.
The truth is you can’t judge a book by its cover, or its initial behavior.
With that, I’d like to outline ten common behaviors that make you seem cold–even when you aren’t.
Once you get a clearer picture of things, you can make the necessary adjustments. Let’s get to it!
1) Lack of eye contact
Let’s not beat around the bush: for a lot of us, staring straight into someone’s soul can be pretty intimidating.
Therefore, a large segment of the population might struggle to make appropriate eye contact during interactions.
And because of their aversion to gazes, they’re also sometimes liable to be unfairly cast off as distant or disinterested, even when this isn’t true.
As we’ve established, people can be judgmental, unfortunately.
Being reduced to ‘aloof’ is a hefty price to pay for such a seemingly minor infraction.
It may sound daunting, but making that extra effort to meet someone’s eyes while you speak will go a long way.
2) Minimal facial expressions
Being stoic is cool, but not ever showing any emotion will make you seem frigid and robotic.
Humans aren’t particularly complicated; sometimes we lack nuance and we arrive at conclusions of others through their body language alone.
Hence, in a world dominated by faux niceties and over-the-top expressiveness, having an impassive facial expression will put others off sooner or later.
If you’ve ever followed professional sports, you’ll know that the collective fan love or hate for athletes is almost exclusively based on how they handle themselves while they’re playing.
Maybe they’re always pouting; or in this case, maybe they never show emotion–which might be misconstrued as arrogance.
Rather than perpetually smiling, certain athletes are all business when competing, their eyes fixated solely on the prize.
This perceived temperament might be unpleasant for many fans; and if you’re familiar with fans, this is the type of sentiment that can rapidly spiral into full-blown, misguided hatred.
3) Monotone voice
Unfortunately, we live in a world where, if you’re not completely agreeable all the time, you risk being classified as cold.
Let’s say you’re out at the Olive Garden and your server greets you with an overly enthusiastic “Hi! How are you today?!”
And caught off guard, you respond by muttering a monotonous, almost sullen, “Good.”
To them, and perhaps other folks in your vicinity, you might seem cold, disinterested, and detached.
When in reality, you’re just introverted or find the overt friendliness jarring.
While a brief interaction at a restaurant is essentially harmless, if you maintain a monotone inflection throughout life, it can potentially affect your more significant relationships, like those at work or home.
With a bit of practice, it’s a relatively easy fix.
Work to adjust your tone and pitch, and try to match people’s energies, if possible. You got this.
4) Avoiding physical touch
Some people have an innate dislike of physical touch.
Sometimes, this is genetic. Other times, it’s the result of environmental factors like lack of affection as a child.
There are a host of reasons why some people aren’t particularly touchy, and being inherently cold isn’t always one of them.
Gentle, subtle physical touch is a major rapport builder, whether that means a firm handshake or a friendly pat on the black.
By breaking the barrier of touch, you’re communicating warmth and approachability.
5) Closed body language
For better or worse, the majority of our communication is through body language and non-verbal contact.
Generally speaking, closed body language–i.e. crossing arms, slouching, or turning away from others–can make you come across as cold and uncaring.
I know what you’re thinking, this all sounds a little superficial.
But this is just how the world works, so if we want to get along consistently with others, working on our body language is an ideal place to start.
Years ago, I went out on a date; and as I did my best to be animated and funny, I couldn’t help but notice her arms perpetually crossed throughout the entire evening.
I began to question myself, “Did I do something wrong? Does she just not like me?”
Sure, I was perturbed by it at the time–but somehow, I decided to see things through.
Long story short, she ended up being my girlfriend.
If I weren’t persistent, if I had given up, discouraged by her closed body language, we wouldn’t have ended up together.
Unfortunately, not everyone has this level of tolerance or patience when it comes to interactions.
Focusing on open and relaxed body language, and actively filtering out more negative gestures like having your arms crossed, is a good idea.
6) Interrupting or not listening
Nobody likes an interrupter.
When you have the habit of interrupting people, you’ll eventually develop a reputation for being self-centered and inconsiderate.
Have you seen talking heads debate on the news?
Things tend to get heated, as they constantly interrupt one another throughout the entire segment. It’s stressful and anxiety-inducing to witness.
Perhaps, like the aforementioned debaters on CNN, you’re just passionate or opinionated, hence your urge to have to get a word in.
But, understandably, when you do it by cutting others off, this will rub folks the wrong way.
Instead, display humility by learning to actively listen.
Let others speak first, absorbing what they have to say.
Respond thoughtfully, instead of just waiting for your turn to talk.
7) Giving short, one-word answers
I have friends who are cold through text but are kind and affectionate in real life.
Even today, when they respond with one-word answers, I have to remind myself that’s just their personality; and that it’s highly unlikely that their unenthused tone has anything to do with me.
However, the fact of the matter is, whether in person or through text, when you regularly give brief, uninformative, answers you will invariably come across as disinterested to many.
If you want to stop seeming cold, it’s wise to start expanding your responses and conveying real engagement through inquisitive follow-up questions and comments.
In other words, be interesting (and warm) by being interested.
8) Ignoring milestones
Do you have a close friend or family member who seems to regularly neglect to greet you on your birthday?
Not a great feeling, right?
These are supposed to be your people, your family, or friends–they’re supposed to be there to congratulate and support you during momentous occasions like birthdays, graduations, or weddings.
Not doing so will make them seem unaware, indifferent, and, well, cold.
People may even begin to question their relationship with them.
If this sounds familiar, through introspection, you’ll naturally become more attuned to these cues.
Ten years ago, I missed a close friend’s wedding, canceling last minute because I felt “sick” (I was hungover) and she never forgave me.
She took it as a personal affront, which I cannot completely blame her for.
Yes, canceling me permanently was a bit extreme.
But in hindsight, I should’ve known better than to go out partying all night before the biggest day of her life.
Live and learn.
9) Always being critical
Criticism is fine in moderation; after all, let’s not kid ourselves, there’s a lot to be critical about given the state of the world.
But when complaining and negativity become your default setting, you’ll give the impression that you’re judgemental, unapproachable, and a drag to be around.
Trust me, there’s nothing “cool” or edgy about being overly critical all the time.
So if you have this habit, try to balance things out with the occasional bit of positive feedback or support.
10) Avoiding personal sharing
Relationships should be about give and take, about the exchange of thoughts and ideas.
When you’re not sharing, your interactions will remain surface-level–and people take notice.
You don’t have to immediately become an open book to everyone you meet, but being a bit more vulnerable with those closest to you will create a sense of warmth and agreeability–making you seem far less cold in the process.
Don’t be afraid to discuss your feelings, your aspirations, and your trials and tribulations in life.
Not only will you see the quality of your relationships improve, but vocalizing these emotions has a therapeutic effect too.
When you’re open, you’re hitting two birds with one stone.
If you think you’re a little cold, don’t worry, you certainly aren’t alone.
The fact that you’re reading this means you’ve made the crucial first step: acknowledging and accepting that there’s something that needs fixing.
Tweaking what are sometimes deep-seated behaviors will take time and practice.
But if you put the work in, it’s only a matter of time before you notice palpable changes.
And once you do make the shift, a whole new reality of warm and satisfying relationships will open up to you.