If you’re a direct person, I for one appreciate you. I really do. In fact, I find that too many people beat around the bush and skirt around what they really want to say.
However, not everyone is like me. Not everyone appreciates those who shoot from the hip and speak their mind openly.
Some people find directness and sincerity to be intimidating and overwhelming. They’re used to a more indirect and low-key way of communicating.
If you’re a pretty direct person, you may be pushing people away without even realizing it.
1) People don’t talk much around you
When you’re very direct and intense, people tend to quieten up around you.
You may think they’re just shy, and that could be the case sometimes.
But if it keeps happening with many people, there’s a good chance that it’s your direct demeanor itself that’s putting some people off.
This isn’t a mark against you or even necessarily a big deal.
But it is a reason to think about the way you communicate and consider whether there is something you could do differently (for example wait longer for others to speak before jumping in).
2) People avoid disagreeing with you
Do you get a lot of nods from people and half-hearted agreement?
This is sometimes a sign that folks are worried about getting on your bad side or find you overly direct.
Even if you don’t mean to be, your personality is coming across very intensely, and some people are reacting to it as intimidating.
Therefore they kind of stand there and stay silent instead of voicing an opinion that they’re worried you won’t like.
They may even pretend to agree with you when they don’t.
This relates a lot to the next sign…
3) People self-censor when giving you their opinion
If and when folks do give you their opinion, they trim it and make it sound a way that they think you’ll like.
Sometimes you can tell a person isn’t really speaking their whole mind, but attempts to get them to speak more forthrightly don’t work either.
You may find it confusing why people skirt around the topic so much or are so indirect, but this confusion on your part only spooks some reserved people even more.
As a result they get better at giving you an opinion they think will be agreeable.
4) People look down when you try to make eye contact
In some cultures this is considered very “forward,” and for reserved and shy people it can also make them feel intimidated.
This may confuse you and make you wonder what you’ve done wrong.
The answer is that you may be doing nothing wrong but that your approach of being very direct is just a bit “high voltage” for some folks.
5) People respond to your requests with delays or awkward silences
When you do ask for things, do people tend to dawdle or act unsure?
There may be a bit of lag time because they are finding that your way of asking for things or interacting is more direct than they are used to.
I noticed this in cultures as well, such as in more direct cultures I’ve been in the Middle East versus North American and Anglophone cultures where politeness and being “proper” still hold more sway than people think.
If you’re more of a direct person or from a more direct culture and living in a place that’s more about decorum you may notice that people seem to think you’re being rude when really you’re just being completely normal.
It’s also the case, of course, that some individuals in every culture are simply more direct. If that’s you, less direct people will sometimes be intimidated.
6) People look up to you, but they don’t actually follow your advice
Another key sign that your direct manner intimidates some people is that you’re admired but not followed.
A common example is that people really look up to you and compliment your accomplishments and wisdom:
But they don’t actually listen to it.
They seem to feel that you’re operating at some kind of energy level or have willpower they don’t have.
“Yes, it’s amazing how you started your business that way and got so lucky!”
“Wow, I totally agree with you about that problem, but it all just seems so hard to understand or grapple with from my perspective.”
You’re essentially being tokenized as this larger-than-life person who engages in very head-on endeavors and dreams.
Your advice is also very respected and listened to, but not actually followed (or at least very rarely).
7) People are sometimes shocked by your jokes and comments
When you’re a direct person that translates to jokes and humor, too.
If you think something’s funny you may be the type of person (like me) who just goes for it.
I’ve done this when the context isn’t quite right or I didn’t consider how the joke could land. In some cases I felt sincerely that I shouldn’t have joked about a certain topic or to certain people.
However, in other cases I have learned not to be too worried. Not every joke can land the way you hope or get people laughing.
However if you are the type to tell jokes that are a bit edgy or take a chance on them just because you can, it’s worth keeping in mind that some folks will take it the wrong way or feel uncomfortable.
8) People have told you that you make them feel pressured
Whether you mean to or not, having a very direct way of going about things can make some folks feel pressured.
For example, if a friend is complaining about all the work they have to do and how late it is, you may say:
“OK, why haven’t you started yet?”
This is a fair question, and you likely don’t mean it in a negative or judgmental way, but simply as an objective question. It makes sense.
But people who aren’t used to such directness can take this the wrong way and feel like you’re pressuring or judging them to do things differently.
As a result they may start feeling like you aren’t understanding enough.
Speaking of which…
9) People sometimes claim you lack empathy or considerateness
Direct people often get a bad rap as being unkind or overly brusque.
I don’t think it’s fair, nor is it often accurate.
But if people say that you seem to lack empathy and compassion, it could be that your direct personality simply doesn’t quite gel with them.
Especially in our modern society, many people are quite sensitive to being offended or hearing something they don’t like:
If you’re not afraid to call it like you see it, that can bother them.
Let’s be honest, sometimes that is more of a them problem than a you problem.
Which brings me to my conclusion…
What should you do?
If you’re scaring some people off with your direct personality, it can help to reflect on that and think about your body language, tone of voice and the way you act around others.
You may have the best of intentions but be coming on a bit strong. Asking friends and loved ones their honest opinion is another helpful option in some cases.
If your mode of communication and behavior is pushing people away or leading to harmful effects in your job, love life, friendships or daily interactions, it is worthwhile to begin consciously becoming more low-key and relaxed.
If your reflection leads you to conclude that you’re not overly direct and that the few people who are scared off are a minority, I honestly recommend continuing as you are.
There is no way we’re going to be able to please everyone in this life.
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