Any time I’m left alone in a public space, I dig my phone out of my pocket and act like I have important business to attend to. This is never truly the case. I’m just so awkward and so nervous around strangers that I must engage in an imaginary conversation with an imaginary person instead of a real conversation with a real person.
That is until recently when I decided I wanted to be the most approachable person in the room. A few experts offered their advice to help me out and surprise, surprise: one of their tips was to put my phone away and keep my phone away. This tip and six others are explained below:
1) Maintain open body language.
“Being approachable has much to do with the nonverbal,” says Dr. Adam Earnheardt, associate professor and chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University. “The more open your body position, the more likely someone will see you as open to conversation. It’s all about reducing uncertainty for both you and the person who wants to meet you. To have an open body position means to be feet forward, arms uncrossed, with head and eyes level to the room. Others who display this kind of openness also generally scan the room with their eyes in hopes of making eye contact. Sounds creepy in a way, but for others who are entering the room with little or no connection to anyone in that room, yours may be the lone friendly face.”
Another nonverbal tip is to simply smile! “This is so obvious that its importance is often forgotten,” Caleb Backe, Health and Wellness Expert, explains. “It can be hard to remember to smile while greeting others or talking to other people, especially if we’re tired or are having a bad day. Smiling is something that we need to consciously think about throughout the day, and eventually it will become engrained in us and a smile will come naturally to us making us warm and approachable.”
3) Stay off your phone.
Dr. Sal Raichbach, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, says you should also stay off your phone if you want people to approach you. “People have a tendency to bring out their phones as soon as they have a minute alone. If you’re always on your phone, people will perceive that you are busy and unavailable to talk,” he explains. “To remain approachable, put your phone away and scan the room. You’ll likely find someone who is willing to strike up a conversation.”
4) Assume a host mentality.
Here’s another tip to consider: act like a host would. “Think like the host is the most practical advice I can give. When you assume a host mentality, your mindset and body language changes,” says Kelly Hoey, author of “Build Your Dream Network.” “You’re now focused on the wellbeing of others in the room: Are they having a good time? Are they meeting others? Rather than either being awkwardly uncertain of what to do or say or worse being entirely self-absorbed. The best networkers are not necessarily the most social, rather they are the people who listen, observe, and add value in small or subtle ways (i.e. introduction or directions).”
5) Find the right balance.
Jody Morse, writer and publisher at Bountiful Balcony Books, says that she’s learned approachability is all about the perfect balance: “Standing in a crowded room, people almost always seek me out. There’s even a line to talk to me in certain circumstances. What are the keys to my approachability? Balance and observation. Not too loud, not too shy. Not overly political, but not a naïve waif with my head in the sand either. Eye contact, but never staring. Bubbly, but not ditzy. Walking the middle ground helps me appeal to almost everyone in the room. Being balanced helps me be noticeable without being intimidating.”
6) Show interest in others.
“For the most part, people enjoy being around people who make them feel good,” says Hunt Ethridge, a dating and relationship coach. Therefore, you should go out of your way to show interest in them! “Now, this isn’t to say that you should become a sycophant or be overly complementary,” he says. “But you can ask people about things that make them happy. For example: What was the best city you ever visited? What’s the best meal you’ve ever had? What is one of your favorite memories from childhood? When was the last time your boss praised you? What teacher in college inspired the most passion in you? There are two keys: 1) make sure the answer only has a positive answer and 2) make sure it’s specific enough that it has a positive memory attached to it.”
7) Stand out.
And a final piece of advice: stand out from the crowd. “One thing that works quite well to get people to initiate a conversation with me is to throw on a unique piece of attire—something attention-getting, but not over-the-top,” Patrick Mackie explains. “Successful examples include: 1) a bow-tie —they’re not so unique that you’re a spectacle as opposed to a professional, but they’re unique enough to give people an in, should they want to approach you, and 2) a uniquely-designed hat—I once wore my Sendero Covey Hat to an event geared toward a younger audience and had no less than 4-5 people comment on it.”