Raise your hand if you feel awkward at parties or networking events.
You’re definitely not alone! Whether it’s trying to make small talk or meet someone new, social situations can definitely bring out the nerves. But one way to take the stress out of these interactions is to work on being more approachable.
There’s a reason that we gravitate toward certain people at parties. Approachable people exude warmth, friendliness, and openness. We feel welcome in their presence.
And being more approachable is definitely a skill that you can develop.
It’s important to note that being more approachable isn’t about changing your personality or making yourself small in order to accommodate others. Rather, it’s about making small adjustments to your mindset and non-verbal cues in order to be more open-minded and engaging. Being more approachable means allowing your true, authentic self to shine while also creating space for others.
Below, we’ll show you how to be more approachable and feel your best.
Wear clothes that make you feel comfortable
It’s hard to be approachable when you’re busy tugging at your sleeves or finding it hard to breathe in your suit.
Comfort is so important when you’re in social and professional situations. When you feel comfortable in your clothes it will make you feel that much more at ease socializing with others.
So before you even walk out the door, make sure you give your outfit a test run. Is the fabric breathable? Stretchy? Can you walk around in your shoes? Can you imagine wearing this outfit for the duration of an afternoon or evening?
If you’re not sure what to wear, think back to past outfits that you’ve received compliments on. You’ll feel even more empowered knowing that this is an outfit that has made you feel great in the past.
You can also wear a necklace or pin or any other accessory that has special meaning for you. Wearing something special makes you feel that much more confident. And a fun accessory always makes for a great icebreaker.
Be engaged in a task
No, this doesn’t mean being on your phone :). An easy way to be more approachable is to help out the host in some way. Maybe it’s offering to hand out drinks or make name tags for guests or set up a welcome table. You’ll get to engage with others but in a low pressure way. And you won’t have to worry about any awkward silences or standing alone in a corner because you’ll have a task to keep you busy.
Volunteer in your organization
Speaking of helping out, you can also use this same strategy to be more approachable in your workplace. Offer to mentor the interns or junior employees in your organization. Or help organize a company-wide clothing or food drive. You’ll get to meet new colleagues and build a strong reputation at the same time.
Be an active listener
For those of us on the shy or introverted side, nothing is more nerve-racking than making small talk with someone new. But a simple technique like active listening can take the pressure off of you and put the focus on the other person.
When you’re actively listening, you’re showing curiosity and interest in what the other person has to say. Ask follow up questions that encourage the speaker to expand on their topic. Listen to key words that invite opportunities to chime in and offer your observations and experiences that align with the topic at hand.
If you’re not sure what to do with your hands—something that many of us may struggle with!—hold a beverage with one hand or put one hand in your pocket. You can also try the mirroring technique—a communications technique in which you “mirror back” the gestures of the other person to help them feel more comfortable around you.
Find points of common interest
While you’re actively listening, make sure to take note of common points of interest. Maybe you grew up in the same town as the other person. Or have a friend in common. Or enjoy watching the same show.
People like to be seen and heard. And they also like to know that they are not alone. By pointing out these commonalities, you are reaffirming who they are while also forming a connection.
Give positive feedback
Everyone loves to hear praise. Whether you’re complimenting the host on their beautiful decor, or offering positive feedback to a coworker for a job well done, using positive language will help you convey warmth and enthusiasm in a genuine way. It will also help you feel more approachable in different settings.
You can use positive feedback as an icebreaker with an acquaintance or a new colleague that you’re eager to meet. Something as simple as “I love your necklace” or “I really enjoyed your recent article” can go a long way toward making someone feel good around you.
Literally make space
Whether you’re standing around in a group or sitting alone in a corner, make sure that your body language is making room for others.
So if you’re standing in a group, you’ll want to have a gap in there somewhere so that someone new can join the conversation. Or if you’re standing alone, you’ll want to avoid putting your arms across your chest or burying your head in a phone, which can indicate that you want to be left alone.
By straightening your posture and keeping an open stance, your body language will signal to others that they are welcome in your presence.
Engage with your peers online
Being more approachable can also extend to your online interactions as well. These days, so much of our networking and socializing is done over social, so it definitely benefits you to be more approachable in your digital life.
If you’re looking to connect with others in your industry, share and promote their work online. Congratulate them on their milestones and achievements.
And when you’re sharing posts, don’t just talk about work. Try sharing subject matters that interest you. Maybe it’s gardening, film, cooking. Much like offline conversations, these posts could open up dialogue with those who have similar interests and help you form authentic connections with a variety of people.Written by JiJi Lee.