Sometimes it’s obvious someone is angry with you: they might shout at you about something you did, or tell you flat-out that you’ve made them mad. But other times, it’s not so clear, and you might be left wondering whether or not you did something wrong. There isn’t always a guaranteed way to tell if someone is mad at you specifically or is just grumpy, but there are a few telling clues that can help you figure out whether someone is angry with you.
Method 1 of 13: They sound irritated or tense.
Sounding “snippy” could mean something is amiss. If someone is angry with you, you might notice that they develop an edge to their voice when talking to you. They could sound irritated, condescending, or unemotional; it might seem like they’re “taking a tone”. And if they’re only mad at you, they won’t have this tone with anyone else.
- If you greet someone who’s frustrated with you, for instance, they might sigh and give you a sharp, “What?” rather than greeting you back.
- Some people will snap or yell at you when they’re mad at you, but don’t rely on this to figure it out. Not everyone raises their voice when they’re angry.
Method 2 of 13: They’re giving short, “clipped” responses.
A person who’s angry with you may not want to talk. Not everyone expresses their anger verbally, especially if they were taught that it’s not okay to show it. If someone is normally rather talkative, they might start giving you short or nondescript answers, or respond with a sound (like “mm-hm” or grunting).
- For example, if you ask your spouse how their day was, and they just say “Fine, thanks”, they might be angry at you.
- If you’re communicating over text or social media, they might give you single-letter or single-word responses (like “k” or “cool”).
Method 3 of 13: They have closed-off or angry body language.
Anger can make someone visibly tense and uncommunicative. Body language can be tricky to interpret, but sometimes it can clue you in to someone’s true emotions. Someone who appears tense, is physically closing themselves off from you and nobody else, or seems visibly irritated could be mad at you, but don’t make assumptions—they could also just be in a bad mood. Here are some specific body language cues you can look for:
- Glaring (or, on the flip side, pointedly looking away)
- Furrowed brows
- Clenched jaw or gritted teeth
- Tightly pursed lips
- Tension in their shoulders
- Arms crossed over their chest
- Closed or clenched fists
- Turning their body away from you, or angling themselves towards the door
Method 4 of 13: They’re ignoring or avoiding you.
Silence or “stonewalling” is a sign something is wrong. Some people, when angry, will go silent—whether to control their temper or to send a message. They might tell you clearly that they don’t want to talk to you or be around you right now, or to leave them alone. Younger or less mature people might just ignore your texts or calls, not acknowledge you when you speak, or even pretend you don’t exist.
- If you have the person on social media, they may stop liking or commenting on your posts, or even block you.
- The silent treatment can be frustrating, and it doesn’t resolve the problem. It’s okay to gently call it out with something like, “I understand you’re upset with me, and I’d really like to figure out how to resolve this. Let’s talk about it.”
Method 5 of 13: They seem “cold”.
A person who’s frustrated with you might act distant. While they may not flat-out ignore you or be rude to you, they may act oddly polite or professional, not engage in regular chatter or banter, or shut down attempts at conversation with short or yes-no responses. They might not laugh at any of your jokes, for instance, or appear disinterested in talking to you—but seem completely fine with everybody else.
- This tends to be more obvious with people you’re close with, because they’ll be acting “off”.
Method 6 of 13: They’re complaining about or badmouthing you.
You’re probably not in someone’s good graces if they’re venting about you. No matter how you find out about it, if you discover someone’s sharing frustration about you or something you did, it’s a safe bet that they’re annoyed or frustrated with you. They might just be expressing frustration (e.g. “It’s ridiculous how often she keeps changing plans”), or they might cross into trash-talk (e.g. “Even a five-year-old could do better than him”).
- Sometimes, the person might even do this when they know you can hear: such as, “Not naming names, but some people need to learn to take responsibility.”
- Some people will spread rumors or gossip when they’re angry. But they might also do it because they want to start drama or appear better than you, so if there’s gossip circulating about you, it doesn’t always mean you’ve ticked someone off.
Method 7 of 13: They’re using black-and-white thinking.
It’s hard to take a nuanced perspective when angry. This can easily show up when someone is angry at you and isn’t thinking rationally. They might overgeneralize your behavior, make all-or-nothing statements or decisions, or get fixated on how things “have to” be.
- If you clock into work a few minutes late, and your boss mutters, “You are incapable of being on time,” they’re probably not happy with you.
- Or, your friend might go so far as to threaten to end the friendship because they found out you talked with their ex.
Method 8 of 13: They blame you.
You may feel like this person could find a way to make everything your fault. Does it seem like someone is jumping through hoops to pin the blame on you for something, even if you only played a minor role (or were completely uninvolved)? Chances are good they’re mad at you, and this is their way of taking it out on you.
- Let’s say your coworker confronts you over the printer being out of paper. When you ask why they didn’t reload the printer themselves, they claim they couldn’t because you never showed them where the paper is. They could have asked someone else, so this may be an excuse to get annoyed with you personally.
Method 9 of 13: They’re being passive-aggressive.
Inaction or underhanded behavior can be a subtle revenge tactic. Revenge tactics can be fairly obvious sometimes, so some people rely on subtle behaviors to express their frustration with you or needle at you. This can include comments or actions that seem innocent without context, but it can also involve deliberately not doing anything, like putting off something you asked them to handle.
- For instance, your roommate made it clear they disliked a new house rule. Later, they go out shopping, but “forget” to bring back something you asked for. That could be their way of communicating that they’re still mad.
- Or, let’s say you fought with a friend. If they make a post on social media later that’s clearly a jab at you, it’s still bugging them.
Method 10 of 13: They’re nitpicking.
You might feel like this person is hypercritical of everything you’re doing. Constant feedback, criticism, or negativity can be tiring or frustrating—and it’s a pretty good sign that whoever’s giving you this input isn’t happy with you. A sudden uptick in criticism might mean the person is mad at you, especially if they’re being picky or unnecessarily rude over things that are minor, inconsequential, or that you’re sensitive to.
- For example, your friend suddenly starts harshly criticizing your taste in crushes, your stutter, and the way you’ve organized your essay. If they’re only doing this to you and nobody else, they’re probably mad at you.
- Be aware, though, that nitpicking alone doesn’t mean someone is mad at you. It can also be caused by things like anxiety, stress, or perfectionism.
Method 11 of 13: They’re picking fights.
A neutral or happy person doesn’t go out of their way to argue with you. But when someone is mad at you, they might intentionally provoke heated debates as a way to rile you up. Nitpicking can be part of this, but they could also rehash old behaviors or fights, deliberately bring up topics that you two strongly disagree on, or even resort to personal attacks and insults.
- As an example: Maybe you’ve previously cheated on your partner, but you ended the affair and agreed to work it out. But if your partner keeps accusing you of cheating every time you’re more than five minutes late, they may still be angry at you.
Method 12 of 13: They’re retaliating.
Lashing out or seeking revenge is a telltale sign of anger. While it’s a destructive way of handling anger, a person who’s attempting to get vengeance almost certainly feels like they were wronged, and is probably trying to get justice or “take you down a notch”. If someone is trying to “get even,” embarrass, or even sabotage you, then there’s no question about whether they’re angry with you.
- If you accidentally broke your friend’s phone, for instance, an angry friend might try to damage your phone as payback.
- Some people will retaliate with threats, verbal abuse, or physical violence. This is never okay. If you feel that you’re in danger, tell someone who can help.
Method 13 of 13: They tell you outright.
Sometimes people will simply tell you if they’re mad at you. If this person is fairly open about their feelings, or if you have a close personal relationship, it’s more likely that they’ll just express straight-out that they’re upset (and possibly tell you why). If they say something like, “I’m mad at you right now,” or “I’m angry with you because you flaked on me again,” you’ll know for sure that they’re mad at you!
- If they’re not too angry, this can give you an opening to apologize and find a solution to what happened.
- You might also be able to just ask, if you have a good relationship with the person. Try something like, “I’ve noticed you haven’t really been talking to me since yesterday. Did I upset you with what I said?”