I used to work as a sales representative in a pharmaceutical company. There was this woman surgeon whom we dreaded seeing. She used to stare at her nurses and patients with those eerie eyes behind her thick multi-focal spectacles. She rarely smiled. In fact, I’m not even sure if she has teeth. She was not very approachable.
As a result, no matter how good her skills were, no one wanted to go near her. Personally, I avoided her as I didn’t appreciate that she gave the impression that the whole world owed her something. The fact that she didn’t smile added to the negativity that surrounded her.
Remember this: No matter how good looking or skilled you are, if you look intimidating, unfriendly, or preoccupied; if you look unlikeable or unapproachable, people will choose not to talk to you. As a result, a lot of good opportunities will just pass you by. If you want people to be drawn to you, then you will also need to be approachable!
Here are seven ways to increase approachability with your behaviour:
1. Get friends to take candid snapshots of you
Bite the bullet and get your friends to take candid videos or photos of you. Don’t state where and when so that the photos will display your natural tendencies. Analyse them together with friends or family. Their feedback may not be the easiest information to swallow, but it will give you a clear perspective of how you are right now, and where you are on the approachability scale.
2. Watch where you look
Stop fiddling with your smartphone, and there is no money to be picked on the floor. Don’t look down. Your eyes are not only your windows to the world, they are also how people perceive you. A the train station, it is common to see people looking down, sideways, or just staring into space. This is unspoken language for – “I’m not interested in anyone except the voices in my head. So leave me alone”. Do you want to look approachable? Look up and scan the room, and don’t be afraid to make eye contact with people.
3. Start smiling
If you are frowning, people will just assume you do not wish to talk. Once you catch someone eye, smile. Give just a small modest smile, the kind that says: “Hello, I see you.” Not the one that says: “Eye contact! Let’s check each other out!” A warm inviting smile will put anyone at ease. It also makes you look like you are enjoying yourself at a function. Do not grin, and don’t plaster a fake smile on your face. People will see right through that. When you are genuinely smiling, your face should be lifted in symmetry with wrinkles around your eyes, also known as crow’s feet.
4. Don’t fidget
It is okay to feel nervous in a crowd, but you cannot to appear to be such. Fidgeting has to be one of the most common giveaways and is easily detected by observers. Biting your nails, playing with your hair, constantly touching your face, are nervous actions that make you appear distant and lost in translation. Fidgeting is a response to either boredom or anxiety. When you are anxious, your body will have an elevated level of stress hormones, prepping your muscles for a sudden exertion. The energy has nowhere to go. Hence, leg shaking and foot tapping are ways to partially relieve that. Composed stillness, on the other hand, presents you as someone who is calm and confident. So stay still and smile!
5. Use your eyes
A twinkle in your eyes is worth a million unspoken words. When you are talking to people, don’t simply stare but look with a smile. Practise smiling with your eyes. Soften your eye expression and make your eyes smile. Get in front of a mirror and practice smiling without using your mouth. You will see an instant difference!
6. Let down your barriers
Check your silent signals. Make a mental note every time you feel the urge to cross your arms or your legs. Try to avoid this at all times. Many people unconsciously have a “closed off” body language and they communicate this by crossing their arms or crossing their legs, by looking down, frowning and generally giving the impression that they don’t want to be disturbed. The same goes for having one arm in front of you, holding a drink, clutching your bag. All these unconscious gestures are partial barriers that give off the impression that you don’t want to be disturbed. Try to avoid all these unconscious habits.
7. Make the first move
Nothing makes you look more outgoing and approachable than by actively seeking people out and talking to them. If you are in an environment where you don’t know anybody, the longer you wait alone, the more uncomfortable you are bound to feel.
Wendy Lee is a professional brand/image consultant who believes that with style, there must be substance. She and professional make up consultant, Li Wei, as part of myStarjob.com’s Image Matters team, will be bringing you all the essentials you need to look and feel your best. Click here for more articles.