How to Be More Approachable

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Approachability refers to the social perception of being friendly, likable, accessible, and easy to deal with. 

Being more approachable helps put others at ease. It makes others more open to initiating conversations and helps encourage social harmony in groups.

There are many reasons why others might not find you approachable. Sometimes this perception has less to do with you and more with the other person's feelings of inadequacy, lack of self-confidence, and poor self-esteem. In other cases, being unapproachable might be linked to having poor interpersonal skills or an anxiety disorder.

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

If you want to be more approachable, there are steps you can take to seem more accessible and welcoming. This article discusses some tips that can help, including:

  • Smiling at others
  • Being available to talk
  • Avoid closed body language
  • Keeping your head up
  • Using good eye contact
  • Angling your body toward others
  • Avoiding nervous habits
  • Mirroring the other person
  • Nodding during the conversation
  • Being positive

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 a spot between a person's eyes. They won't be able to tell the difference.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Recap

Strategies such as smiling, being accessible, avoiding closed body language, and mirroring the other person's body language can help others see you are more approachable.

Characteristics of Approachable People

Being approachable is all about being friendly, open, and welcoming. People who are described as approachable tend to make other people feel comfortable and are good at getting others to open up.

Approachable
  • Positive

  • Enthusiastic

  • Non-judgmental

  • Trustworthy

  • Empathetic

  • Humorous

Unapproachable
  • Negative

  • Cold and apathetic

  • Judgmental

  • Secretive

  • Uncaring

  • Disinterested

Benefits of Being More Approachable

Approachability comes with many benefits. In social relationships, being approachable often serves as a way to initiate connections with others. Some key benefits you may enjoy by learning to be more approachable include:

  • Greater trust: People are more willing to trust and open up to people they perceive as approachable.
  • Increased intimacy: Because people are more willing to share with approachable people, approachability can contribute to greater self-disclosure in relationships. This can increase closeness, intimacy, and connection.
  • Better communication: When you are more approachable, people are more willing to discuss their concerns and share their needs. This can improve communication and reduce the risk of misunderstanding.

Potential Pitfalls of Being Unapproachable

Being unapproachable can come with a number of drawbacks. If people feel that you are unapproachable, you might experience:

  • Fewer social connections: If people feel you are standoffish, they are less likely to initiate conversations. Because it might be more difficult to form new connections with others, the result can often be fewer interpersonal relationships and decreased social support.
  • Increased loneliness and isolation: Being unapproachable can lead to fewer social connections, which can ultimately contribute to feelings of isolation and loneliness.
  • Few opportunities for advancement: Being less approachable can also have a negative impact on your opportunities in the workplace. Co-workers might be less likely to reach out to you when collaborating on projects. Employers might be less likely to task you with projects that require leading groups.

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes a person more approachable?

People who are seen as approachable can overcome barriers in social situations. They are seen as accessible and are good at helping others feel welcome in social situations. Their body language, facial expressions, and listening skills help convey their interest in hearing what others say.

How can I be more approachable and make friends?

Simple actions like smiling at others and using good eye contact are great places to start. Once someone seems open to starting a conversation, utilizing icebreakers to introduce yourself and move the conversation forward can keep the momentum going. Of course, practicing these skills can help you get better at being more approachable and forming new friendships.

Why are anxious people sometimes viewed as unapproachable?

Social anxiety can lead people to give off signals that others misinterpret as being standoffish. Examples include avoiding eye contact and closed body language. If you have social anxiety, getting treatment can help. You can also learn new coping strategies and ways of relating to others that will help you seem more approachable.

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.

4 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

  3. Pack R, Columbus L, Duncliffe TH, et al. "Maybe I'm not that approachable": using simulation to elicit team leaders' perceptions of their role in facilitating speaking up behaviorsAdv Simul (Lond). 2022;7(1):31. doi:10.1186/s41077-022-00227-y

  4. Tsuji Y, Shimada S. Socially anxious tendencies affect impressions of others’ positive and negative emotional gazes. Front Psychol. 2018;9:2111. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02111

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."