Have you ever walked into a room full of strangers, feeling a mix of excitement, anxiety, and self-doubt, only to find yourself standing alone as conversations buzz around you?
Well – you’re not alone.
As we grow up, we need to constantly remind ourselves that our ability to appear approachable becomes increasingly crucial for instigating conversation and fostering meaningful connections.
This article delves into 12 common behaviors that may inadvertently make you seem less approachable, along with actionable advice to help you adjust these habits.
Once you become more self-aware of how you act in both personal and professional settings, you can then correct yourself and create an inviting atmosphere around you.
1) You Rarely Smile
A warm and genuine smile is one of the most telling signs of an approachable person.
When you rarely break into a smile, it creates an impression of coldness or disinterest, which may deter others from striking up a conversation.
I know it may feel forced at times, but it’s important to recognize the value of a simple smile; positive energy is not only contagious but also has the power to put others at ease.
In a professional setting, a smile conveys confidence. It shows that you’re open to fostering connections.
While it’s not necessary to have a constant grin plastered on your face, making an effort to smile more frequently, especially during icebreakers and discovery calls, can make a significant difference in people’s first impressions of you.
2) You Complain Too Much
No one likes perpetual complainers. It’s emotionally draining to be around them.
When you complain frequently – whether it’s about work, your personal life, or even world events – you’re contributing to this negative atmosphere that makes others hesitant to approach you.
While it’s completely natural to vent frustrations, you need to remind yourself that fixating on the bad parts of your life will only make you unhappy.
If you find yourself refusing to put back those rose-tinted glasses, I recommend that you start cultivating an attitude of gratitude.
Write down or say out loud three things you’re grateful for each day. Make a conscious effort to have a positive outlook on life.
Before you know it, you’re exuding positivity, optimism, and a positive atmosphere to encourage others to approach you.
3) You Keep Making Fun of People
Not everyone has the same sense of humor. Some people can get turned off by jokes that are tasteless and rude.
While using humor to poke fun at others might seem harmless to you, it can actually make others feel uncomfortable, ridiculed, and uneasy.
They’re less likely to feel secure in your presence since they fear that they’ll be another target of your jokes.
This reminds me of a former coworker who frequently made fun of others in the office.
While some laughed along, I noticed that a lot of us weren’t exactly having “fun.”
One day, I pulled this colleague aside and gently explained how his jokes were affecting the team’s morale.
Good thing he saw it as constructive criticism and started to build others up rather than tear them down.
4) You Don’t Make Eye Contact
Eye contact is a crucial part of nonverbal communication which conveys trust, confidence, and openness.
When you avoid making eye contact, it may seem like you’re either not interested or perhaps you’re intimidated.
You may be unintentionally sending the wrong message.
A word of advice: It might be helpful to practice maintaining eye contact in low-pressure situations, such as casual conversations with friends or family members, to become more comfortable in larger and more formal settings.
Other nonverbal cues you could start being intentional with include a relaxed posture, a warm smile, and open body language.
5) You Don’t Follow the Dress Code
The dress code might seem like the least significant component of a social setting, but it’s not – it’s a make or break factor in conversations.
For the most part, you need to fit in. It doesn’t matter the setting.
Some people may perceive your nonconformity as a lack of respect for the environment or an indication that you don’t care about connecting with others.
Familiarize yourself with the dress code for various events (e.g., professional meetings, semi-casual events, casual social gatherings).
And please don’t forget about personal grooming and hygiene. Show respect for yourself first before expecting others to show respect for you.
6) You Have Closed-Off Body Language
As mentioned earlier, body language can signal to other people whether or not you want to be approached.
Closed-off body language, such as crossed arms, hunched shoulders, or being angled away from the crowd, can create a sense of disinterest or hostility.
Keep in mind that there are people who don’t realize that they’re being closed-off simply because they’re shy.
They may not know anyone in the room or maybe they have social anxiety.
One time, I was at a networking event, and I noticed a woman standing alone in the corner with her arms crossed and her gaze directed downwards.
I thought maybe she’s just completely uninterested in meeting people. Eventually, she started adjusting her posture and making small talk with others, so that’s when I finally decided to approach her.
I found out that she was just mustering up courage, giving herself a pep talk before introducing herself.
7) You Cover Up Your Face
Covering your face – with your hands, hair, or accessories – can, quite literally, create a barrier between you and others, making it more difficult for them to read your emotions and feel connected to you.
If you’ve caught yourself doing this, ask yourself: Is it out of habit or as a reaction to certain situations?
Identify the triggers, and practice self-awareness so that you’re more attuned to your body language and facial expressions.
Present yourself in a more approachable demeanor.
Some recommendations that I have are tucking your hair behind your ear, adjusting your glasses, or stopping yourself from covering your face with your hands.
8) You Act Busy When You’re Not
A lot of us pretend to be preoccupied with other tasks to avoid engaging in conversation or appearing too available.
While it’s a pretty effective way to maintain personal space, others might interpret it as you feeling too important to be bothered by their company.
And I doubt you want anyone to think of you that way.
I suggest that you work on building your confidence in social situations.
Involve yourself in group activities, like clubs, parties, or sports, to become more comfortable in larger groups.
I’m not saying force yourself to become an extrovert. Just try to learn how to engage with others even when you’re not exactly “in the mood” to socialize.
9) You’re Always Using Your Phone or Headphones
Admit it – there are times when you act like you’re on your phone during social gatherings you have no interest in.
Well, I’m here to tell you that that’s straight-up disrespectful. If you don’t want to be there, you can always excuse yourself and leave.
Don’t make it difficult for others to initiate conversation or connect with you on a deeper level.
One of my biggest pet peeves is someone using their phone whenever we’re eating together at a restaurant.
It feels like I’m not a priority at the moment. It feels like they don’t care about having a meaningful conversation.
On the contrary, if they were more present and bouncing off thoughts with me, they’ll be sending a clear message that they’re interested in our little hangout.
10) You Give One-Word Replies
Conversations are a two-way street. When you’re constantly providing short replies, you’re not giving much for the other person to work with.
Give detailed responses that invite further conversation. Ask-open ended questions. Show genuine interest in the thoughts and opinions of what the other person has to say.
If you’re giving one-word answers because you’re shy and lacking confidence, build your self-esteem by exposing yourself to various social situations.
Start small. Say “thank you” to the delivery guy. Do some volunteer work. Go on dating apps or whatever social platform you’re comfortable with. Learn the art of asking good questions to keep the dialogue flowing.
11) You Tend to Be Defensive and Hate Difficult Conversations
This defensiveness can be solved with introspection. Reflect on the root causes of your coping mechanisms.
Are you afraid of being judged, feeling vulnerable, or admitting mistakes? Growing up, were you always reprimanded? Has anyone ever made you feel unsafe talking about your emotions or perhaps invalidated them?
I never knew how much I hated confrontation until I started having some big arguments with my boyfriend.
Our fights were often heated, and I found myself becoming defensive and closed off.
However, he always ended up being gentle and understanding, which ultimately taught me a different kind of love – one that was calm, not crazy.
I was never scared to approach him whenever something was bothering me because I knew he’d take care of me.
12) You Don’t Respect Others’ Personal Space
Knowing how to respect personal space is an essential aspect of approachability.
When you invade other people’s bubble, they’ll most likely feel uncomfortable and not engage in further conversation.
Always pay attention to nonverbal cues that may indicate that someone is feeling unease.
Respect is key. Educate yourself about cultural differences in personal space norms. What might be considered normal in your culture may be perceived as intrusive or distant in another.