NOT APPROACHABLE! It may as well be written on the person’s forehead.
First, there’s the lack of acknowledgement when you approach. Then, when finally acknowledged, you’re “greeted” with a sour-looking face, slumped body language, and a mumbled, half-hearted greeting that is given only after you’re forced to prompt it because of the awkward silence while that face is staring at you.
There’s one person in particular I’m thinking of when I write the description above and unfortunately, it’s someone I have to deal with on a regular basis. However, all of us have had to face an unapproachable person at one time or another. We find them in our professional organizations, religious groups, and sadly, serving in customer service roles in the businesses we frequent.
But what if the unapproachable person is you?
In the most extreme cases, such as with the person described above, I believe these unapproachable people are putting up a force field to keep people away. However, in other instances, we may be telling others to stay away with more subtle signs we may not be aware of. If you’ve ever felt like people were hesitant to approach you, or notice at an event that other people are engaged in groups and you’re alone, there could be something you’re doing that is keeping others from engaging with you.
So what can we do to become more approachable?
One of the easiest ways we can appear approachable is by having a pleasant facial expression and to smile when others look our way. This is especially important if you happen to be one of those people like me, whose mouth doesn’t naturally curl upward at the corners in a natural smile. If I’m not consciously thinking about having a pleasant facial expression, my relaxed face says, “Hey you kids, get off my front lawn!” If your relaxed face is the same, and you don’t make a concerted effort to smile, people might be hesitant to approach you.
2. Make eye contact.
If you’re busy looking at your phone, your computer, or your fingernails, it makes it more difficult for others to approach and “interrupt” you. Especially if you’re someone who is a bit shy, or hates networking events as much as I do, stop trying to look busy and face the discomfort of making connections with others. The best way to initiate a connection is to make eye contact. Then go back to #1 above!
3. Maintain “open” body language.
No one wants to walk up to someone whose arms are crossed, head is down, or is facing away from them. If you want others to feel comfortable approaching you, maintain a relaxed, but confident posture. Turn your body toward people, put your shoulders back, keep your head up, and let your arms rest at your sides.
4. Speak with a pleasant tone of voice.
If you greet people with a grumpy hello, you’re going to have a short interaction. Say “hello” like you’re happy to see people. Even if you’re having a bad day, if you want to be approachable, you need to let that go and sound like you’re happy for the interaction with others.
5. Keep the conversation pleasant.
In relation to #4 above, not only do people not want to hear your grumpy tone, but they don’t want to hear how crummy your day is, how bad your back hurts, or about your upcoming hemorrhoid surgery. This isn’t to say you can never talk about these things, but not to everyone and they generally shouldn’t be the first thing out of your mouth. When people ask, “How are you?” They don’t necessarily want to hear ALL the gory details.
6. Focus on the other person, not yourself.
Stop dominating your conversations! Focus the conversation on the other person. Ask open-ended questions to get him or her talking, especially about themselves, their work, or family. Although most people hate to admit it, they like nothing better than to talk about themselves and to have the stage.
Have any other tips for being more approachable? Comment and share them with us!
Amy Castro is a workplace and leadership communication expert, speaker, and author. The second edition of her book, Practical Communication- 25 Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Getting Along and Getting Things Done, just hit the “shelves” of Amazon.com last month.
If you need more tips on being approachable or approaching others, check out Amy’s blog post on networking: Hate Networking? 10 Reasons to Try a Different Approach