HOW TO APPROACH BEING MORE APPROACHABLE
Monday 15 June 2020
Embracing the week, starting the day with a smile and everyone will regard you as that open and friendly person you are. It takes more than you would think
Slight changes in hand gestures, facial expressions, and even unconscious movements can often be mistaken for seeming uninterested or aloof. Observe and learn the top five things you can do to make others feel more comfortable and relaxed.
In social situations, especially unfamiliar settings, it often feels natural to look down, or to “escape” by checking our phones. Yet when we hide our faces, or when we pretend to be busy with our devices, people will assume we aren’t available to talk and therefore hesitate to strike up a conversation. To appear more approachable, always keep your head up and gaze around the room, making eye contact with others. This may feel awkward at first, but to others you appear friendly and welcoming and interested in having a chat.
Intentionally displaying a posture that signals openness is crucial to making others around us feel more comfortable. These non-verbal cues include keeping arms and legs uncrossed, avoiding hiding yourself behind a glass or coffee mug and maintaining a relaxed, but straight posture. Open body language sends the message that you are present, friendly and ready to listen.
Have you ever noticed how some couples mirror each other’s gestures, expressions and habits? The mirroring effect often happens subconsciously, particularly with people we like. This approach, known scientifically as “limbic synchrony”, is ingrained into our human brains. Mirroring is especially effective with first encounters because emulating the other person’s words and behaviour, can create powerful connections. However, be sure not to overdo this technique as it may come across too obvious and intense.
One of the most difficult habits to master is avoiding constant, fidgety movements. Examples of these small habits include incessant hair touching, nail biting, foot tapping, or folding and unfolding arms and legs. In public settings, fidgeting can signify to others that you’re feeling stressed or nervous. The best way to control it is to clasp your hands together when listening to others. Reducing or avoiding caffeine intake could also help control the jitters.
The ultimate and most important secret to being approachable is smiling. Nothing is more friendly and genuine than a warm smile. The act of smiling alone releases our natural feel-good hormones such as endorphins and serotonin to relax the body. Similarly, smiling elevates the mood of others around you. Studies have shown that people who smile are more approachable than those with more neutral facial expressions. The next time you are surrounded by new people, whether by video or in person, flash a smile and lift the mood.