I was talking to a girl in English and in personal, friendly and non-formal situation.

The girl behaved like she...was obligated to speak with me like she did. It was just a feeling that she had some moral condition, that she forced herself to behave in a certain manner or that she had to talk to me in such manner becuase of whatever reason....like she had a specific goal with me and didn't care about talking with me at all.

With my non-native knowledge of english language, a sentence came to my mind very intuitively...I told her "You seem forced" and the exact moment I said that, it felt awkward...like, it's something a native english speaker would definitely NOT say. It sounded like I was implying she was being pushed by a physical force, like by a unexpectedly moving door or something.

But what I meant was more abstract... I tried to say (just to myself) several different sentences just to find what sounds best and haven't found any...


  • "You seem forced" - sounds awkward but she seemed like she was "forced" either by someone, by herself, by the situation, by the atmosphere, by anything. Not by physical force at all.

  • "You sound like you have to speak with me" - sounds too long ...and I feel there's strong implication of "You sound like someone told you you have to speak with me."

  • "You don't look yourself" - I feel this conveys slightly different message...like "you don't look well" or "are you alright?"

I want to be clear in saying that she looks like she is being forced by the current situation or by herself for any reason, like she has a specific goal and doesn't care about talking with me at all.

How would you say that?

Is "you seem forced" OK or is that really weird?

What would you say in the situation, where a stranger approaches you but you feel there is a very blatant expression of "I don't care about you at all, I approached you and we're having this useless small-talk just because I want to get you to do something for me"...? How would you in most concise - but friendly and non-conflicting - way tell her that this behaviour is very obvious to you?

  • 2
    Cultural note: if you don't know her very well, she probably wouldn't ever say "yes, I do feel forced to talk to you" even if that was how she felt. There's no polite way to get that sentiment across explicitly, so asking directly like that might make things worse.
    – Milo P
    Nov 20, 2014 at 22:04
  • It's hard to tell someone that you think they're being manipulative in a 'friendly and non-conflicting' way. That's more the kind of thing you might think yourself or tell a third-party. She was being 'false'. 'Forced' is more like general awkwardness, it doesn't have the connotation of duplicity that you're looking for.
    – A E
    Nov 20, 2014 at 23:03
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    I am a native speaker and I took a survey recently and they asked about a certain situation in a game and I thought it was not a natural element of the game so I responded "[that situation] seems forced, as if the programmers were told they had to put it in there." I'd say your instincts were right on. It would, however, be a bit like a smack it the face to the person being accused of being "forced" as it implies also being "false" or "fake".
    – TecBrat
    Nov 24, 2014 at 14:19

3 Answers 3


“You seem forced” can be used to indicate what you’ve expressed

Your meaning may have been gotten better than you think. “You seem forced” employs a fairly common usage of “forced”, indicating strain even though there is not a physical force. Note that “you look forced” in your question’s title is a little different, having to do with the way that “seem” refers more comprehensively to apparent behavior and “look” refers more to physical appearance.

Another way to say this that would be specific to tone of voice, diction, etc. would be “you sound forced” which could be hedged a little as “you sound a bit forced” and would be helpfully followed by a bit of explanation or a question, such as “is everything OK?”¹ or “do you feel you have to talk to me?”

Expanding on the “look”/“seem” difference in “you don’t look yourself”

With “you don’t look yourself”, it seems like you are saying that something about the other person’s physical appearance is unusual compared with historical data or some assumed expectation (e.g. someone’s face is green or streaked with tears and you assume they are not always that way, even if you don’t know them).

If you were to say “you don’t seem yourself”, your comments would be understood to refer to someone’s overall presentation. This could certainly include physical appearance, but is more often used to refer to someone’s speech, body language, and other aspects of behavior. I believe this phrase would fit the situation you described.

Note for “you don’t seem yourself”: Similar to “you don’t look yourself”, you would be understood to either be making a comparison to ways you’ve seen this person act before or ways you assume they normally act. For example, you think that the person doesn’t normally put so much emphasis on their words or deliver them in a staccato rhythm.

The note from the end of §1 of this answer applies here as well. Since you’re guessing at something about another person, it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to describe a little more what you mean by what you’re saying. I personally think it would be appropriate to ask a question aimed at learning more about how this person is feeling and/or what they think about the situation.

  • 3
    The way I would say it is "You sound a bit forced. Is everything OK?" I'm not arguing that it is grammatically incorrect to say "You seem forced." but typically I associated forced with something other than a person - "a forced smile", "forced friendliness", etc.
    – ColleenV
    Nov 20, 2014 at 17:44
  • @ColleenV I was in the process of adding a note about “you sound forced” and some potential follow-ups when you commented! Please let me know what you think. Nov 20, 2014 at 17:46
  • As a native speaker, I would never say "you sound forced," or "you look forced." I would say "your answer seems forced," or "everything you say today seems forced." "You sound forced" seems like an ungrammatical way to say "you sound like you've been forced to say these things [by someone else]."
    – Cat
    Nov 20, 2014 at 19:48
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    @Eric I appreciate and value your perspective, but I’m sure I’ve heard someone say “you sound forced” with this as the meaning they intended. I’m writing from an AmE perspective, FWIW. Nov 20, 2014 at 19:56
  • @TylerJamesYoung Interesting, I can honestly say I've never heard that; I've only ever heard things referred to as forced, not people (unless they are being forced by someone else). (Canadian and American English.)
    – Cat
    Nov 20, 2014 at 20:00

If she appears "trapped" with you

Are you okay? You seem like you're under duress or something.

In practice, if I really got this impression, I'd just end the conversation (politely) and leave her to it. If I feel uncomfortable talking to someone but they just won't shut up, I appreciate it when they notice that I've lost interest and go away, rather than waiting for me to be rude and say something direct.

If she gets back in touch on her own volition, you know you imagined it or she was somehow giving off the wrong idea.

If she wants something from you

Just dive right in:

Are you after something?


Are you okay? Can I help with something?

This is known as cutting to the chase. You've detected that there she probably has an ulterior motive in the conversation, so it's in both of your interests to move on to resolving it.

After all, the only reason she started the small-talk in the first place was to break the ice and try to steer the conversation into a place where her needs can be organically brought up; once you've noticed that this is in play, bringing it up yourself and skipping the rest of the small-talk is perfectly natural.

  • I think the terms "trapped" and "under duress" seem a bit extreme for the described situation, but the rest of your advice is very good.
    – thelr
    Nov 20, 2014 at 19:09
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    @thelr: Being "trapped" in a conversation is a highly common thing to say in my experience. "Oh man, I was trapped for TEN MINUTES while he just went on and on. -.-" Nov 20, 2014 at 19:16
  • 1
    Fair enough, but it would generally be considered rude to use that term when talking to the person who made you feel that way.
    – thelr
    Nov 21, 2014 at 21:48
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    @their: Right, which is precisely why I did not suggest doing so. Nov 22, 2014 at 5:12

to compel might be a good verb to use in this sentence

Meaning of compel is 'to force someone to do something' (Cambridge)

It means you are doing something against your will.

Some examples

  1. We are compelled to use a helmet while riding a bike inside the college campus. (We don't want to wear helemt but they make us wear it)
  2. They compelled me to resign. (Means I didnt want to resign but they made me resign)
  3. They compelled me to talk to you about this matter. (Means i didnt want to talk to you but they made me do it)
  4. We are compelled to work night shifts every alternate month. (We dont want to work night shifts but we have to)

So in your example you might say (with some variation)

  1. You seem compelled to talk to me.
  • 2
    In American English, "compel" can actually have a positive connotation, which would be confusing in the OP's situation. For example, "I was running late, but the smell of fresh donuts compelled me to stop." This is most often the case when used in the phrase "feel compelled", where no specific person or situation is identified as truly forcing a behavior.
    – thelr
    Nov 20, 2014 at 19:07
  • ok - so do you mean to say that 'You seem compellled to talk to me.' can mean either posivitive or negative ? @thelr
    – Leo
    Nov 20, 2014 at 19:13
  • I’d say that that is what thelr is saying, and I agree. With “compelled”, you could just as easily be describing someone who is inspired to speak by an attraction to the extent that they are unable to not speak. Nov 20, 2014 at 21:12

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