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When I'm sitting by myself, people sometimes come to talk to me or ask me if I'm okay. I suspect this is because when I'm not controlling my expressions, it looks like I'm scowling or frowning, and these people may assume I am sad and be concerned. I would like to let them know that I am fine in a polite manner.

This happens when I'm eating or working on something at lunch, when I'm on a bus, or in the classroom when I work by myself. A few times it was people I didn't know, but some of these are students or teachers that I am somewhat familiar with and know to just be kind people, not nosy or anything.

I have tried the following:

  • Maintaining a neutral or happy expression - After a few minutes, I forget I'm supposed to be concentrating on my expression and I go back to my usual frown.
  • Telling them "Yes, I'm fine" and then turning away to ignore them or pretending I'm very busy - This mostly works, but it's rude. I also get a feeling that they're not completely convinced when I tell them this. I also can't pretend to be busy when I'm just sitting there and not doing anything.

Sometimes, these people ask me to join their group or decide to start speaking to me even if I tell them I'm good, and it gets intensely awkward for everyone, because they think they are doing me a favor and being nice. How do I let people know I am okay already, even if I appreciate their concern? I'd prefer to talk to them as little as possible if I have a choice.

Details that may be relevant:

  • I’m in the US
  • I’m a high schooler

While this isn't a problem right now, because of the pandemic, I'd like to be prepared when things get back to normal.

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    Do you usually consider cutting conversation to be an objective as well, or is it something you usually don't mind ? – Arthur Hv Mar 24 at 15:34
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    @ArthurHv I guess it's an objective as well; I'd prefer to talk as little as possible (unless there's no other option, of course). – user Mar 24 at 15:37
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As an intro, I am a person too that has a very not-happy facial expression and I know your situation, being asked how you are due to this expression.

Since I started to watch other peoples' expressions, I learned this is very common. Almost nobody walks along smiling or laughing, so why should I? Are others being asked that too?

How to let people know I am fine?

By telling them when they ask you.
When they don't ask you you can't let them know so easily. I decided there is no need to.

When I imagine I had asked this, there were some more questions. Probably you have them as well?

How to avoid that?

This is a difficult part.

Maintaining a neutral or happy expression

I tried to learn how to make another expression than I have. It led to awful grimaces but nothing more natural. So I decided people better keep asking me if I am sad which is simple to explain (see later), instead of them running away from my psycho-face.

Moreover I didn't find a reason for me why people that only come across my way should think I am happy.

How to deal with that?

Don't only say you are ok but also ask something like how comes they think you are not.
They will tell you about you looking sad. Then you can explain that this is your normal neutral expression. Add that sometimes people believe you are sad, but everything is ok.
It's also a good chance to ask them what exactly makes you look sad. Even if you can't change that on your look, at least you know a little more about your appearance.
Do that in a friendly way, don't feel insulted or attacked by them! They are not mean to you, they simply want to get in touch with you.

I had a situation when a stranger asked me if I can smile in my life too. That appeared odd to me, but I thought perhaps this person just tries to either wants to talk (I didn't want) or be nice or funny. I solved that telling them oh yes I can smile or even laugh, but at this moment there simply is no reason to. Guess what, I noticed me smiling while I said this.

The last thing you mention (Sometimes, these people ask me to join their group...) could be independent of your facial expression. Some people might answer that's great, take the chance... but if you don't want to - well this is another topic. Again, they are not mean so explain to them you like to be on your own.
Think about if you really want it that way or if actually you would like to get into contact but you can't for some reason. If the latter, I can recommend from own experiences to try to find a way out of that!

If you decline joining their group or talking to them, don't burn bridges.
It requires courage, but think about explaining your situation. One fears to appear strange when saying one can't do much social contact - but imagine they will think that about you in either way.
I learned people often accept someone that doesn't talk much - once they know the person is not desinterested or rejecting.

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If some people inquire your state it's probably because they see you isolated and offer a conversation if you would like. So the exercise is similar to saying a polite "no" to a stranger. They offer a conversation that you decline.

In order to decline something the most polite way I usually don't have to make the negotiation go at length, but just exchange a few sentences that show:

  • I understand the concern
  • I empathize with that
  • Nonetheless I prefer to say no.

So for example a conversation could be:

Person: Hey. Are you ok?

You: Yes, I'm good, thanks. Why this question?

Person: Well I saw you alone (or whatever reason)

You: Ok, I understand, but I just want to be alone right now, is that ok for you?

By adding a couple of sentences and questions about their concern and if they are at ease with your "no", you add empathy to the discourse, and I experienced that it avoids the situation to be rude and awkward.

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    Hey Arthur, it seems like you forgot the backup part ^^ So, did you use this technic in the past? Did it go "according to plan"? – Ael Mar 25 at 8:57
  • @Ael I'm trying to find backup actually. I will temporarily delete. – Arthur Hv Mar 25 at 9:02
  • @Ael It's tangential, I backup saying no which I do that way, is that ok ? I could find sources on saying no but they are not really fitting. – Arthur Hv Mar 25 at 9:21

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