Handling staring

There is a difference between looking at people when we meet them and staring. You might have noticed people staring at you, and it can be difficult and upsetting.

It can help to understand why people stare. Not everyone will have met or seen someone with a visible difference before and they may be curious about how you look. We are all curious when we see something new or someone different.

I want to say, don’t judge a book by it’s cover. It’s fine to look because I know I look different, but please don’t keep on staring, come and ask me if you really want to know why I look the way I do.

Sam

Try and think of a time when you met someone and you were interested or surprised by the way they looked. Did you look at them for longer?

Most of the time, people don’t mean to be hurtful. Remembering this may help you to understand why people stare and how you can respond to them.

Here are some tips to help you with people staring:

Help the person know they are staring

Sometimes people might not realise they are staring. Here are some ways you can show people that you know they are staring.

  • Look at the person and smile. Most people will smile back and then look away
  • If people keep staring – look back at them and raise your eyebrows or tilt your head
  • If you feel ok about it, you could say something – try talking about something else

Tyrol was in the lunch queue at school when he noticed the boy behind him staring at his face. He turned around and said “urgh, mushy peas again. Good thing Wednesday only comes once a week”. “Yeah” said the other boy “sludgy, gloopy peas”. They both laughed.

  • If the staring continues and you are unhappy, you could frown at the person so they know you are upset

It might feel a bit funny at first, but it can help to practice. Try these out in the mirror, or test it out on your friends and family.

Don’t respond to staring

You might notice someone staring at you and decide you are going to ignore it. This is ok too. It might be better to do this if you do not feel comfortable saying something or making eye contact. You are not letting them ‘get away with staring’, it is your power to decide what you do.

On the busy people would stare at me but I didn’t look at them because I didn’t want to say anything on the bus and have an argument. So I chose to ignore the staring and eventually it would stop

Kerry

Move away

You might decide to move away from the person staring at you if you feel uncomfortable, for example changing seats. This might make the person realise that they have made you feel uncomfortable.

Reassure yourself

How you respond to staring is up to you. You may respond in different ways depending on the situation and how you are feeling at that time.

Using ‘positive self-talk’ can help – this is saying things to yourself to help you to feel ok.

You will find your own, but here are some examples of things you might say to yourself:

  • They are just curious
  • Maybe they have never seen someone who looks like me.
  • They may be too nervous to ask me a question
  • I know they are staring but I am going to choose to think about something else
  • Staring is rude and I don’t need to talk to someone who is being rude
  • I am more than how I look

Try a phrase or a Motto to say to yourself – ‘I am ok.’, ‘I am special.’ or ‘I have lots of positive things about me.’ or remind yourself about something you are good at.

I have decided not to cover up my birthmark as much because at the end of the day that’s how I look and it’s who I am. I don’t really see why I should change myself for other people – if they stare it’s their problem not mine

Sophie

Prepare:

It can help to think about the things that you might do or say if someone stares – and then you will feel readier when it happens.

Take a look at the 3-2-1 Go tool and Preparing responses to help you to think about this – try to practice a bit. Although it might feel odd at first, after a while, you will find it a bit easier and it will help you be more confident when people stare.

3-2-1 Go tool

Read

Preparing responses tool

Read

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