Doug Dvorak's Blog

What Makes You Unapproachable and How to Fix It

You weren’t invited out for drinks after work again, or perhaps you’ve noticed that no-one ever seeks you out for advice, or when you enter a room, everyone is suddenly silent.


Experiencing situations like these doesn’t necessarily indicate a bad case of body odor; in fact, it’s more likely that you’re giving off signals that make you seem unapproachable. Here are seven possible explanations for your lack of approachability:


Closed-off Body Language


A typical type of body language that makes you look unapproachable is crossing your arms. It is done consciously or unconsciously as a defensiveness posture in situations of insecurity or discomfort and can deter others from wanting to engage with you.


Turning away from someone who has just started a conversation with you, keeping your head buried in your device, or wearing an angry or unhappy face can also deter your colleagues, potential friends, and even loved ones from engaging with you.


Remedy: Smiling is contagious, so do it while you’re with other people. Engage others by facing them and maintaining a tall, upright posture. By doing so, you’re demonstrating your readiness to engage in conversation and your openness to hear what the other person has to say.


Your Passive Aggression is Out of Control


It’s oaky to crack a sarcastic joke now and then, but if you make frequent negative comments about your coworkers or bring up their flaws in public meetings, you will come across as passive aggressive.


Remedy: Instead of making colleagues uncomfortable by being indirect about your displeasure with their actions or performance, tell them how you feel in private.


You Are Quick to Point Out Others’ Flaws


Your own vulnerabilities will become evident if you constantly point out faults in others. Likewise, gossiping about other people and their shortcomings will show your colleagues they can’t trust you and give others the impression that you are judging them.


Remedy: The truth is nobody is perfect so try not to be too harsh in your criticism; besides, you’ll find more satisfaction in highlighting others’ virtues instead of contributing to the negativity around you.


The Spotlight Is Always on You


It’s great to be self-assured, but constantly bringing up your degree from your ivy-league college makes you seem overzealous, competitive, and arrogant. Your successes should be a personal advertisement. If you need approval from other people, you’re setting yourself up for a lifetime of misery. Bragging gives others the impression that you are attempting to present your superiority.


Remedy: Try listening to others and give credit where it’s due. Don’t interrupt people and take over the conversation; keep an open mind and remember that other people lead exciting lives, too. You’ll never find out about them if you’re always talking about yourself.


You Constantly Seek Your Own Company


If you deliberately isolate yourself by skipping the office potluck and avoiding small talk, people will assume you want to be left alone.


Remedy: If you want others to approach you, you should let them in occasionally. Instead of staring at a screen when a colleague walks by, remove your headphones and engage with them. If you make yourself approachable in this way, people will be more likely to want to hang out with you.


You’re a Debbie-Downer


Don’t be a pessimist. Observe the following conversations between Person A and Person B:


A: “Wow, this chocolate cake is delicious!”
B: “Yeah, but it’s a little dry, don’t you think?”


A: “Have fun on your vacation!”
B: “Yeah, thanks, but I’m not looking forward to this eight-hour flight.”


Do you see the pattern? Person B responds to a positive statement with negativity. People won’t want to engage with you if your demeanor and conversational tone are negative.


Remedy: Keep a smile on your face and keep the negative parts of your stories to yourself. No-one likes being around a Debbie-downer.



You Don’t Ask Questions


Showing genuine interest in what another person is saying can be demonstrated by asking them questions.


Remedy: Even if you don’t ask questions, maintaining eye contact and showing genuine interest will demonstrate that you care about the person and conversation and reaffirm that they’re not just talking to a wall.


Conclusion: It’s highly improbable that nobody likes you. In fact, it’s far more likely that you are giving off the wrong signs. These subtle improvements (and showering regularly) can make all the difference in being more approachable.



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