You walk into a party, but no one talks to you. You wonder, what am I doing wrong? You’re not alone. Feeling socially awkward can happen even to the most outgoing people.
So how can you be more approachable in social situations? It’s an important ability to harness. Connecting with people builds relationships on a personal and professional level.
These are the ways you can improve your approachability in public…
1) Smile often and naturally
The simplest thing you can do to be the most approachable person in the room is to enter with a smile on your face.
You’ll also need to maintain that smile, and it needs to be a genuine one. People can tell if your smile is forced or fake, and it won’t be inviting enough.
If you suffer from RBF (“resting b**** face”), you’re going to have to try harder to have a genuine smile in social situations. Perhaps you should try smiling with your eyes…
2) Make eye contact
If you want to speak to a specific person, look at them. See if you can catch their eye, and strike up a conversation.
I always have to remind myself to do this. It doesn’t always come naturally for certain people.
Once you’ve kicked things off, you’ll need to maintain that eye contact during your conversation.
3) Be open with your body
Try not to cross your arms or slouch. Stand tall and keep your arms open with your chest facing outwardly.
Standing this way shows openness, making you more approachable.
If you need to sit, try to pick a seat in the center of the room or in an area where there’s more foot traffic.
4) Actively listen and pay attention to what people are saying
Once you’ve found a person to converse with, be a good listener.
I always try to pay attention to what other people are saying. I work hard to listen intently and with purpose.
If you want to be approachable, take in what other people are saying so you can engage and interact.
5) Learn how to engage in small talk
Being an approachable person means you’ll also need to be comfortable with lighthearted, small talk.
More often than not, you’ll be interacting with people you don’t know. If you don’t know them, what are okay topics to discuss?
Some of the small talk I keep in my conversation bag of tricks include:
- Talking about the weather
- Mentioning hobbies
- Discussing sports
- Chit-chatting about pop culture
- Finding common ground
- Other non-controversial topics
6) Use people’s names
Using the name of the person you’re speaking to transitions you from “stranger” to “acquaintance.” It’s one of the best ways to feel more connected to someone.
I always make it a point to ask people for their names as I start a conversation.
From there, saying their name as you talk will create a closeness you didn’t otherwise have before.
And it’s not just about what you say when you’re speaking to someone. It’s also about how you speak, as the next section shows…
7) Be mindful of your tone
Do you sound overly excited? Take it down a notch.
Do you sound monotone? Bring it up a pinch.
Be aware of how you sound. You’ll be off-putting if you’re not matching the energy and tone of who you’re speaking with. The best place is to be in the middle—not too amped up and not too blah.
You’ll also need to be mindful of what you’re wearing…
8) Dress appropriately and situationally
If you don’t believe it’s important, think again. What you have on can make a big impact in your approachability.
If you’re not wearing something appropriate for the circumstance, people may shy away from speaking with you. For example, you’re at a baseball game, but you’re wearing a party dress.
Look the part so you can be more inviting. Blending in with your surroundings and appearing like you belong will give you the opening to introduce yourself…
9) Introduce yourself
If you’re in a social situation and no one is approaching you, get out of your shell and approach them first.
And as you do, don’t forget to introduce yourself to spark up a conversation.
10) Kick off the conversation
I always have some ice breakers ready to go.
Here are some good ones to try:
- See something, say something. Make an observation.
- Ask for a recommendation. “Which appetizer should I try first?”
- Share a funny story that’s related to something that’s happening.
- Offer a genuine compliment. “I love your outfit.”
11) Share your own experiences
Once you’ve kicked off the conversation, it’s time to turn on your vulnerability.
Be okay with sharing your own experiences. Opening up will make you more approachable to the person you’re speaking with, as well as others who are around you.
I like to connect with people by finding common ground. It’s a great way to engage others to get to know you. If you’re not sure that you have common ground, ask questions…
12) Ask questions
The conversation should be a mutual one. Avoid a one-sided chat by asking questions while you share your own experiences and ideas.
Remember, other people might be shy, timid, or introverted, so you may need to lead the conversation in order to be approachable to those who are not as comfortable in social situations.
13) Be inclusive
When you’ve found yourself in a good rhythm with a conversation partner, be open to broadening your circle.
You can do this by being inclusive of others. Bring other people into the conversation by asking them questions or relating stories to them.
As your circle gets bigger, engage in positive talk, not negative…
14) Avoid negative talk
It’s easy to fall into the trap of engaging in negative talk. Sometimes, you can find common ground with other people by pointing out the bad.
However, while being miserable “loves company,” being engaged in negative talk won’t make you more approachable in the future.
No one likes a “Debbie Downer” or a “Negative Nelly.” Try not to gossip or speak ill of others. Don’t complain about the situation that you’re in. Be positive and inviting.
Hopefully, you have enough self-awareness to recognize if/when you’re being negative…
15) Be self-aware
Having self-awareness is integral to your approachability. I am hyper aware of who I am, how I sound, and how I make others feel.
If you understand yourself fairly well—your emotions, thoughts, motivations—you’ll be able to connect with people on a deeper level.
That’s because self-awareness also goes hand in hand with emotional intelligence, which means you’re more equipped to show empathy in others…
16) Have empathy
Empathy will make you more approachable because people will feel more comfortable speaking with you.
The empathy you exude will create a safe space for conversation and connection.
17) Respect people’s boundaries
If you are approachable, the safe space you create for others includes respecting their boundaries.
For example, if you can tell that someone is not comfortable talking about a certain topic, you’ll know to steer clear of it.
Instead of mentioning uncomfortable things to people, you’ll opt for saying kind words…
18) Offer praise
These kind words will come in the form of praise, compliments, or positive reinforcements:
- “I love the way you did that.”
- “You look great.”
- “You’re always so helpful.”
These compliments will help people connect with you. You’re saying to them, “I see you,” which will make you more approachable.
It also shows how humble you are…
19) Be humble
Having humility and being down-to-earth will also make you easier to talk to.
If you spout off about all the awesome things you do, it will be really hard for people to relate to you. It’ll come off as competitive and can make people uncomfortable around you.
Your modesty will go a long way.
20) Don’t rush the conversation
Once you’ve broken the seal and have found someone to connect with, keep the conversation going.
If you rush the conversation or end it abruptly, it’ll make you seem anxious. That anxiety can also spread and make people uneasy.