How to Become More Approachable

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What does being unapproachable mean?

Identifying physical signs: You do not make eye contact with others. In fact, even when you are looking at someone directly your face appears as though you’re looking through them (as if people were made of glass). You walk with your head down. You keep your hands in pockets or behind your back. You keep a distance of three feet at all times, and you break eye contact to look down before making any motion toward someone else.

You have trouble using body language in an approachable manner: You do not smile at people when talking to them (and when you do, it is a fake smile that does not reach your eyes). You avoid touching others, even when appropriate. You speak very quietly or loudly, in clipped sentences, and are generally dismissive of others’ ideas.

You have trouble communicating with people: Your responses vary widely from person to person and situation to situation, which leaves people feeling confused. Your communication is disorganized, unclear and chaotic: You ramble, or speak in lists rather than complete sentences.

You frequently interrupt others when they are speaking—not necessarily because you disagree with them but because you have a hard time waiting for your turn to talk. When someone asks a question that requires more than one word for an answer, you do not attempt to answer the question, leaving the person confused as to your response.

approachability

Identifying when someone is unapproachable:

The point of this section is not to list specific behaviors but rather a mindset that can leave others feeling manipulated or unheard by you. If you feel you sometimes behave in ways listed below, this course applies directly to you. You use information to manipulate people so they will do what you want them to do.

When a person disagrees with your opinion, you try to change how the person feels by changing his or her thoughts—without providing any evidence that your way of thinking is correct.When faced with an unwanted situation, you choose escape over confrontation. You are not assertive when someone asks something of you that you do not want to do.

As a result, people feel manipulated by your behavior; they feel that there are things about themselves that you know and they do not, leaving them feeling as though there is no chance for an honest exchange of information. They begin to feel anxious in situations where they think they might have to work with you. They question if it’s even possible for them to be honest with you.

You do not control how often you do these things, but when you notice that they are happening and affect your relationships with others, this course is for you.

How does being unapproachable make people feel? Unapproachability makes people feel defensive and anxious because of the way you treat them.

When someone comes at you with an idea, rather than seeing it as information that can help you figure out a new approach to solving a problem, you see it as an attack on your intelligence or ideas.

Your actions cause others to feel like they need to prove themselves worthy of your respect. When someone disagrees with you, your first response is to find fault in his or her argument and pick it apart instead of trying to understand where he or she is coming from.

When you do this, the other person feels as though they are being forced to defend their position when they were really only asking for information; they feel manipulated by you.

When someone enters a conversation with you, his or her goal is to have a discussion about an issue in order to solve that issue. Instead of being receptive to the new information this person has for you, you keep doing the same thing because it’s what feels safe and comfortable—even though it’s not working.

When faced with a situation that requires assertiveness—like being asked to do something you don’t want to do, or reached out to for help when you’re already busy—you choose a nonverbal response (like avoidance) rather than standing up for yourself.

You may tell yourself and others that you are open-minded and willing to listen, but in reality your actions speak louder than your words. Your actions show others that you are defensive and hostile, which makes them feel manipulated and unheard by you.

When a person feels manipulated or unheard by someone he or she is supposed to be able to trust, that relationship will never grow very deep because the other person cannot be honest with him or herself about how he or she really feels—or him/herself about how you feel.

 

When is it appropriate to be unapproachable? Unapproachability comes in handy when you need tact, diplomacy or don’t want the other person to get too worked up about something.

You can use your unwillingness to approach people as a way of protecting yourself from situations that involve hostility. You also use being unapproachable as a way to keep yourself from having to be vulnerable around people, and this is something that can help you avoid making decisions about things that make you uncomfortable.

 

When is it inappropriate to be unapproachable? Unapproachability interferes with your ability to have healthy interpersonal relationships.

Unapproachability will compromise your ability to lead others because people will be too afraid of you in order to follow your leadership commands. It also destroys the trust between you and your coworkers, colleagues and friends.

When someone feels manipulated or unheard by you, he or she cannot build very deep relationships with you, so the chance of him or her taking your advice is greatly diminished.

Approachable

How does being approachable look like?

Do you have a powerful presence that makes people feel safe around you? Do you make others feel like you know exactly what they’re going through when they share their thoughts and feelings with you? Are your opinions respected because of the respect that comes from how you treat other people? Can you listen to someone’s point of view without getting defensive or jumping to conclusions?

When someone gives you an idea or perspective that’s different from yours, do you try to understand where he or she is coming from before telling him or her why you disagree? When you encounter a problem, do you feel safe asking for help from your friends and colleagues instead of doing everything yourself out of pride?

Are people willing to listen to you when you’re having a problem that requires assertiveness? Do people have faith in your honesty, integrity and openness with them? Are you respected as someone who is willing to take risks in order to do the right thing for yourself, others and the overall situation?

If your answer to the above questions is yes, then you are an approachable person.

Being approachable is about being honest with yourself as well as the people in your life. Being approachable is about keeping an open mind and trusting other people to come to you with their thoughts and concerns, rather than waiting for them to come to you. Being approachable means treating others with care and compassion, which helps deepen interpersonal relationships.

If you want to be approachable, try the following suggestions:

  1. Remind yourself that everyone has something positive to offer and that the only way for them to do so is if they feel safe around you. If you are unapproachable, then people won’t feel safe being themselves around you because there’s a chance that they’ll offend you.
  2. Realize that not everyone will agree with your opinion, and some people may present you with an idea or perspective that you don’t agree with. This doesn’t make them bad people, however; it just means they have a different opinion than yours on the subject at hand. It also doesn’t mean that you should spend months, or even years, arguing with them about it. The goal is to find a healthy way of resolving the situation without hurting the other person’s feelings and without compromising your integrity.
  3. Listen carefully to what the other person has to say by truly paying attention instead of zoning out because you’re tired or need to get something done. Avoid being distracted by your phone or other miscellaneous things in the environment. And most importantly, don’t interrupt them until they’re done with their thoughts and feelings so that you can get a word in edgewise.
  4. Look at the person who’s speaking to you without any judgmental eyes. Don’t be quick to glare at him or her because you disagree with what’s being said. Simply listen to him or her in a calm, non-judgmental and compassionate way that shows your true interest in the person and his or her perspective.
  5. Avoid smiling at the other person while he or she is talking even though you may think what he or she is saying is funny. Instead, maintain a serious straight face so that the other person feels comfortable enough to say everything he or she wants to say.
  6. Use body language to show your interest in what’s going on by leaning towards the speaker and avoiding fidgeting in your seat, shifting your legs around, rolling your eyes or sighing impatiently while you’re listening to them speak.
  7. Avoid frowning or looking sad while you’re listening to the other person talk, and don’t roll your eyes at them either. Instead, try maintaining a neutral facial expression such as a slight smile or a blank face so that the speaker feels comfortable in sharing his or her thoughts and feelings with you.
  8. When the other person has said his or her piece, ask open-ended questions, such as “How did you feel about that?” and “What do you think we should do about it?” These kinds of questions help the speaker to think more deeply on a subject instead of feeling like he or she is being attacked by your point of view.
  9. Keep in mind that people will feel more comfortable around you if you approach them first instead of waiting for them to come to you with their thoughts and feelings. If they know they can trust you enough, then they’ll open up to you about things they normally wouldn’t disclose because of fear of being judged by misunderstanding or rejection on your part.
  10. Be compassionate and understanding while the other person is talking to you, rather than waiting for them to finish their thoughts and feelings before rushing in with your own opinion or critique of what they’re saying. This helps deepen interpersonal relationships instead of creating a rift between people on both sides of an argument if one side isn’t willing to listen to the other’s opinion with an open mind and heart.
  11. Don’t always assume that you know what the other person is feeling, or think about how to fix whatever situation they’re describing to you without taking your time to see if they feel the same way. Instead, just stay quiet and listen carefully so that you can understand their perspective.
  12. Don’t assume that the other person has the same level of knowledge or wisdom as you do, so don’t try to give them advice unless it’s asked for. If they ask you a question about what you think they should do, then answer their question with an open-ended reply instead of telling them what to do without asking first.
  13. Don’t try to convince the other person that you’re right and they’re wrong about whatever subject is being discussed because all people have their own unique points of view after seeing life from a personal point of view instead of an objective third-person’s point of view. Instead, focus on what you can both do together as a team to find a solution that both you and the other person can live with.
  14. Be willing to compromise your own point of view in order to agree on what’s best for everyone involved, rather than trying to take control of the situation by imposing your ideas onto others without taking the time to see if they’re open-minded enough to listen carefully to what you have to say.
  15. Don’t take everything personally if the other person seems to dismiss your ideas and opinions because it’s not about you, but instead an indication that they don’t feel comfortable sharing their feelings with you on a given subject.
  16. Use “I” statements such as I felt angry when…” or “I want…” instead of “You” statements such as You made me angry when…” or “You should…”. This allows the other person to focus on the subject at hand instead of shifting it onto you.
  17. If you feel that a person is wrong about something, then correct them in private and gently with compassion and understanding rather than letting everyone know they’re wrong by publicly correcting them in front of others.
  18. Be willing to change your mind if you find out the other person is right, but don’t publicly admit that they were right by saying “I was wrong” and making a big deal about it by drawing unwanted attention towards yourself instead of focusing on what matters most: the issue at hand that needs to be resolved.
  19. When someone gets angry, don’t get defensive because it just makes them angrier if you tell them that they have no right to be angry because one of their rights has been violated. Instead, just remain calm and quiet until the other person calms down as well then discuss the issue afterwards without making any judgmental declarations that might upset the other person further.
  20. Don’t think that you have to convince someone of what you’re thinking, feeling or believing because it’s not up to us to change anyone else but ourselves instead. We’re each responsible for our own thoughts and feelings regardless if anyone else is experiencing them as well.
  21. If your current relationship or friendship with someone is no longer working for you, then let them know that you would like to take a break and put it aside until you’re feeling more positive about it. If the other person feels the same way then put it aside for a while, otherwise look for someone else who shares your feelings about the relationship or friendship so that you both can enjoy a more balanced relationship or friendship.
  22. If your current relationship or friendship with someone is no longer working for them, then let them know that they seem to be withdrawn and that it might be better if you slow the whole thing down as an indication that you don’t want to force the issue any further without consulting each other first.
  23. If you respect yourself, then others will respect you as well without even trying to understand why they should feel inclined to do so because it’s obvious that YOU deserve their attention and respect since you’ve been respecting yourself first and foremost.
  24. When someone asks for advice on a given subject, be willing to help them by giving them pointers that you’ve learned from your own past experiences but do so in a way that does not put them down but instead empowers them to come up with their solutions on their own without feeling like they can’t find the answers within themselves.
  25. Be aware of your body language such as staring intensely at someone because it comes off as intimidating instead of friendly and approachable if someone doesn’t know you well enough or isn’t comfortable with you yet.