People minding their own business. Seems like an endangered species.

Have you ever been in a situation where you were paying attention to something, or simply doing absolutely nothing, and someone approached you and very casually mentioned that hey, you look sad?

You probably did, and it was probably annoying. In today’s article we’re going to have a look at three possible reasons people may tell you you’re sad, why you may look that way, and most importantly how to respond without coming off as arrogant.

Here we go…

Why people may say you look sad

1. They don’t think before they speak

The most common reason some people tend to comment on your looks, mood, or anything else, even when it’s not appropriate or in a way that may sound rude — is simply the fact that they act spontaneously. Those of us who are more reserved or introverted tend to think before they act (and if you’re reading this, chances are you do as well), but unfortunately that’s not true for everybody.

The truth is that some people simply say anything that’s on their mind without really thinking about how the other person may react, or whether their comments could hurt their feelings. It’s the way they function, and although it may be really annoying in some cases, we simply have to accept it and understand it’s part of their personality, which does have some advantages (for example, it’s usually easier to socialize with them and they may be more honest than the average person).

So when someone tells you you look sad, or depressed, or whatever, do know that 99 percent of the time they’re simply making a comment. Yes, they may be rude, but they’re not trying to be rude — they don’t do it on purpose. And they’re definitely not trying to hurt you. If anything, they may be concerned because…

2. They actually care about you

Have you ever seen someone who looked worried or stressed out, and genuinely wanted to help them out, but ended up not saying anything so it wouldn’t be awkward? When we see someone who looks sad, usually our reaction is to talk to them and cheer them up, but then we don’t, to avoid embarrassment.

But for those who are more on the extroverted side, it doesn’t really matter if it’s appropriate or not: if they think you’re sad and want to help you out, they won’t just smile and ignore you — they’ll actively approach you. And typically the easiest and fastest way to do so is to make a statement, such as “you look sad”.

So while you may interpret their words as an attack, at least in the sense that they’re being too direct, what they say may actually indicate that they genuinely care about you and aren’t afraid to talk to you. Now, whether they can help you or they’re simply wasting your time, that’s a different story. But their intention is probably good.

3. They use it as a conversation starter

This is more likely to happen if you’re at a party or any situation where it’s easier to socialize. Or, a situation where it feels more natural to say something rather than looking around (think of those moments of awkward silence).

The other person may not be able to come up with anything other than a comment on how you look; and since a compliment (e.g. “you look great”, “I love your outfit”) could sound a bit awkward, they may choose to say that you look bored, tired, upset, or… sad. Even when it’s not true. Again, their intention isn’t to cause embarrassment, but to simply start a conversation and interact with you.

Why you may look sad

1. You have poor posture

The position of your tongue, neck, shoulders, and back affects your overall health and if you haven’t already, I encourage you to develop proper posture because it will improve so many different things, including your mood. That being said, when people tell you you look sad, it could be because of slouched posture.

Regardless of our energy levels, the position of our back could make it look like we’re exhausted; similarly, regardless of our actual emotional state, our body language may indicate to others that we are upset. Someone may look at you, and notice poor posture, and simply assume you are depressed/lazy/etc.

2. You are tired

Reason number two you may have a sad facial expression is if you’re very tired. This could be early in the morning when your brain hasn’t fully woken up yet, or right after your lunch break, or when you’ve just finished work and you’re exhausted. Or, it could be lack of sleep: we all look worse when we don’t get our eight hours.

In either case, your physical state may make you look sad even though you’re fine (and yes, if you are sleep-deprived or you’ve been working all day, chances are you won’t be the happiest human in the world, but it doesn’t automatically mean you have some terrible mental health issue).

3. You are daydreaming

And if you’re predominantly an introvert, I bet this happens all the time. If you’re the kind of person who tends to daydream, it may look like you’re sad while in reality you are simply paying attention to your own thoughts and forgot about the outer world for a while.

By the way, small doses of mind-wandering are actually healthy: daydreaming can help you reduce stress and anxiety as well as improving your creativity and problem solving skills. So whether it makes you look happy or sad or lazy or whatever, be proud of it because it does have benefits.

4. You are actually sad

This is the situation where it may be harder to respond to the other person, simply because their comment is true: you are sad, and others notice it, and you’d probably prefer they didn’t as it creates a lot of unnecessary anxiety.

But what you need to keep in mind is that sadness is a natural emotion. We all experience sadness from time to time, and it’s perfectly fine. It’s not something you need to fix, and definitely not something you should hide at all costs. Depression, of course, should be addressed as soon as possible; but even depression itself is very common in today’s world and is nothing to be ashamed of. If the other person thinks you’re weird for experiencing sadness or depression, that’s their problem, not yours.

5. You relax your facial muscles

For some of us, looking a bit sad could actually be normal; it could be our natural facial expression when our muscles aren’t tense. Think of when you are asleep, or about to fall asleep — you probably don’t look euphoric, right? That’s a good thing.

The issue could be that some people have gotten used to what they see on TV, or on social media (and we all know that’s not the real world), or simply being around fake people who smile 24/7 just so they can hide their true feelings. But it’s much better to be real — be yourself.

How to respond to “you look sad”

1. Don’t be defensive

Whatever your reaction or response is, never be defensive because it can only make things worse. A positive attitude always goes a long way and shows the other person that you are able to control your thoughts and feelings.

As we’ve seen, there’s three main reasons people may tell you you look sad: they may simply act spontaneously, they may genuinely care about you and try to help, or use the statement as a conversation starter. Those who say you look sad to intimidate you are the rare exception, not the rule. So don’t react like they’ve disrespected you, and don’t be too defensive.

2. Say you’re actually okay

The easiest response to “you look sad” can be to simply state that you’re fine. It tells the other person there’s nothing to worry about and they shouldn’t try to fix any issue, because there are no issues at all. If they ask again, you can simply repeat that you’re okay until they ignore you.

You may be telling the truth or lie, but ultimately it all comes down to what you want the other person to do. Are you really sad, and would you like them to actually talk to you so you can express your feelings and feel a bit better? Or do you want them to ignore you? If it’s the latter, just say no — it’s that simple.

3. Say you are thinking about something

If you tend to overthink or even daydream, it could make you look sad. Similarly, when we are really focused on a task it may look like we’re angry simply because our facial muscles are tense.

So if someone says you look sad and it bothers you, you can tell them that you’re thinking about something and that’s simply the facial expression you make when you get lost in your own thoughts. It could be work, study, your family, a project, anything. And you don’t have to tell them what your thoughts are; you can be vague.

4. Mention what is going on in your life

If you are going through a difficult time and you are indeed a bit sad, and you feel the other person may be able to understand you, you can use their statement as an opportunity to talk about some of the things that are upsetting you.

However, in most cases you don’t actually want to state that you’re sad, or depressed, too directly: it’s better to mention that there’s a few things in your life that are causing you stress, or that didn’t work out, and then let the other person comment on that (their comment will tell you whether they actually care or simply said something randomly). For example, you could say things like “you know, I’ve been working so much in the past few months”, or “I’ve been more anxious recently”, etc.

5. Smile like you just won the lottery

The fifth and final possible response to “you look sad” is to suddenly put on the biggest smile and change your posture like you’re the happiest human being on the planet. This will make the other person happier as well (we subconsciously emulate the expressions and gestures of those we interact with) and perhaps throw them off guard.

Alternatively, make a joke. Like, say you just wanted to commit suicide but had to clean the house first, or that your cat wouldn’t let you. The key is to come off as a very positive, optimistic person just so that others no longer have a reason to tell you you look sad. Plus, they’ll be really surprised.

Do you find it annoying when people say you look sad, depressed, or angry? Leave a comment and let me know! 👇