How to Be More Approachable

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If you have social anxiety disorder (SAD), you may struggle with how to look approachable. Perhaps you've never considered the signals that you send through your body language, or maybe you feel powerless to control your body because of your anxiety.

How to Be More Approachable

If you struggle to meet new people or join in the conversation at social gatherings, it might be that your body language is sending the message for others to stay away. How then can you improve your body language to appear more approachable? Below are ten tips to get you started.

  1. Smile. Although it is possible to overdo smiling, generally it is better to smile versus frown. Try to find things that genuinely make you happy or laugh and your smile will come across as natural rather than forced.
  2. Be Accessible. If you are constantly on your smartphone or buried in a newspaper, people will feel like they are interrupting you. Make sure that you are accessible and open to communication from others.
  3. Avoid Blocks. In the same vein, make sure that you aren't using objects to shield yourself from others. At a party, hold your drink at your side instead of close to your chest. Keeping objects between you and others makes you appear guarded and closed.
  4. Keep Your Head Up. It is hard for others to know to approach you if your head is constantly down; they need to see your face to feel like you want to get to know them. Keep your head level when walking, meeting people, and during social situations.
  5. Use Eye Contact. When you do end up talking with someone, be sure to maintain eye contact. A good rule is about 60% of the time you should be looking in the other person's eyes. Avoiding eye contact makes you appear untrustworthy or disinterested. If direct eye contact feels hard, try looking at only one eye at a time, or at a spot between a person's eyes. They won't be able to tell the difference.
  6. Angle Towards. Watch your feet, your legs, and your body; you should be angling toward the person you are talking to, not away. Any body language that makes you look like you are ready to "bolt for the door" means the other person will feel like you are just not interested.
  7. Avoid Nervous Habits. Even though you might be nervous, avoid the habits that go along with the feeling. Stop touching your face or playing with your hair. Don't fidget with your pen or the change in your pocket. Keep your hands relaxed at your sides or use them to gesture when making conversation.
  8. Mirror the Other Person. Use this technique sparingly when appropriate. If you are in conversation with another person, mirror his body language to make him feel more comfortable; make some of the same movements that he does. Don't overdo this strategy or it will become obvious what you are doing.
  9. Nod During Conversation. When listening to someone, nod to show that you are paying attention and interested. Doing so reinforces for the other person that you want to be involved in the conversation. One way to take the focus off yourself during a conversation is to plan to share what you've heard with someone else afterward. This will cause you to stay focused, ask questions, and summarize to make sure you understand.
  10. Be Positive. Beyond body language, always be positive. Say nice things about other people instead of mean things. Approach others and include those who seem to be left out. Be a positive person and you will attract other positive people to you.

A Word From Verywell

If you experience anxiety, it might feeling overwhelming to change habits that make you appear unapproachable. And there may be times when you don't want to change for fear that you will be approached by someone who wants to talk.

Although it may feel unnatural at first, with the time you should start to feel more open and confident as a result of changing your body language. If, however, you still struggle to be open with others, it is best to seek help for your social anxiety. There are effective treatments such as medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) that will make a difference in your life.

2 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Social Anxiety Disorder: More Than Just Shyness. National Institute of Mental Health.

  2. Willis ML, Dodd HF, Palermo R. The relationship between anxiety and the social judgements of approachability and trustworthiness. PLoS ONE. 2013;8(10):e76825. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0076825

By Arlin Cuncic
Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety."