When I was younger, my friends used to tell me I looked “unapproachable” or even “scary”.
It was my resting face, they said. It was my aura, they said. It was the way I kept to myself, they said.
Well, it’s safe to say that I have learned my lesson, and I’m now the go-to person if you want to ask for directions while lost or if you’re looking to fundraise for charity on the street.
People approach me all the time. And I’ve changed only one simple thing: my body language.
So, do you seem unapproachable? These are the 8 body language mistakes you might be making.
1) You have a cranky resting face
Everyone’s resting face looks different, right? Some people appear neutral, others seem bored, and others yet look downright angry.
I used to be the third type, courtesy of my mom whose resting face is exactly the same.
“But I can’t change my resting face, so… what’s your point?”
Well, that isn’t entirely true. Firstly, if you’re angry or stressed quite often, that emotion is more likely to show up on your face even if you’re not aware of it, not to mention that it causes more wrinkles and gives you an aura of negative energy.
(Yes, I was angry often when my friends dubbed me as unapproachable. And yes, I’m nowhere near as angry anymore.)
Secondly, researchers have shown that there is one thing you can do to transform your “resting bitch face” into a face that displays thoughtfulness – put your hand on your chin.
It may sound strange, but once your hand is on your chin, you apparently appear more thoughtful and intelligent, as well as less judgmental.
Of course, you can’t walk around with your hand on your chin all the time – that’d probably have the opposite effect of what we’re trying to achieve here – but if you’re sitting down and want to appear more approachable, put your hand on your chin and ta-da!
You have ascended to a level of thoughtfulness rather than crankiness.
2) You’re glued to your phone
Remember when strangers actually used to speak to each other?
Yeah, those were the times.
The issue with phones is that they have become such a norm that many of us use them to create a distance between ourselves and the world around us. You may not even realize it, but once you’re on your phone, most people will automatically find it more difficult to approach you as you’re already busy doing something else.
When I was at university, I couldn’t even count how many times we all sat there waiting for class to start, refreshing our phones just to avoid speaking to each other.
It was kind of sad.
If you’re out in public, go off your phone. Put your headphones in your backpack. Take a genuine interest in the world around you.
People will be much more likely to talk to you (unless they’re on their phones, that is).
3) You avoid eye contact
Remember when you were in school and your teacher asked the class a question, only for you to accidentally make eye contact with them and have your name called out?
Eye contact can go a long way. It’s how you establish a connection, however fleeting, opening a door between yourself and another person.
If you lock eyes with someone on public transport, they’re more likely to start chatting with you.
If you avoid eye contact at all cost, on the other hand, they probably won’t build up the courage to strike up a conversation and maybe ask you out on a date.
Don’t be afraid to share a few glances. It can lead to unexpected connections.
4) You unabashedly gawk
Of course, staring at people can have the exact same effect as avoiding eye contact.
In fact, the best way to ensure no one sits next to you on a bus is to unabashedly gawk at everyone and pat the seat next to you as they pass you by.
While keeping to yourself makes you unapproachable because people may find you shy or mysterious, gawking just makes you look plain freaky – especially if you ever find yourself in Northern or Eastern Europe where people like to mind their own business.
Your best bet is to take the middle road. Make eye contact, but don’t dwell on it for too long.
5) Your gestures are too chaotic
I used to have a friend who would exude such chaotic energy that just standing next to him would make you feel uneasy – you were never sure if he’d accidentally wave his hand and hit you in the face.
He meant well, but the way he moved – with such obvious lack of calm and composure – translated into unapproachability because people didn’t want to be near him.
It’s not surprising, really. Humans like predictability. We want to be able to guess whether the person we’re dealing with is going to adhere to social norms, treat us with respect, and not do anything out of the ordinary.
If you wave your limbs around like a maniac and display a lack of control through your body language, you will be seen as the exact opposite of predictable and ordinary.
Take a few deep breaths. Try to calm down. Be more mindful of the space around you.
6) You speak very quietly
Another one of my friends from university was absolutely lovely, except… she spoke so quietly I could barely hear her.
There’s nothing wrong with speaking quietly in and of itself, but when you’re at a party or in a bar, the last thing you want is to strain to hear someone over the music and ask them to repeat themselves five times until you eventually give up.
So, if you think you seem unapproachable, try speaking up the next time you’re having a conversation. Maybe your voice is just too quiet for people to be able to properly enjoy the discussion, and if you speak a bit more clearly, the issue will resolve itself very quickly.
7) You’re crossing your arms
One of the golden rules of nonverbal communication is to try not to cross your arms as it signals defensiveness and withdrawal.
However, the nonverbal communication expert Joe Navarro MA says that crossing one’s arms actually means many different things.
For example, you may be:
- Comforting yourself (crossing your arms is a bit like giving yourself a hug when you think about it)
- Masking an insecurity
- Responding to anxiety or stress
- Restraining yourself or expressing frustration
Of course, all those can still make you appear unapproachable as they show that there’s some underlying issue, causing subconscious friction in communication.
8) You roll your eyes in silent judgment
Finally, rolling your eyes at someone is the universal language for judgment and/or contempt, and it probably comes as no surprise that it makes it harder for people to strike up a conversation with you.
This is because displaying judgment makes you look like you think yourself above others.
What’s more, it signals coldness, while people are naturally drawn to warm personalities.
We’ve all rolled our eyes at some point or another, but if you’re ever in a group setting and want to make yourself look as pleasant to be around as possible, try to restrain yourself before the eye roll does you more harm than good.
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