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Here’s how to go from looking unapproachable and stand-offish to approachable and friendly.
Part 1: How to appear more approachable and friendly
Part 2: How to be more friendly when you interact with someone
Part 3: Deal with underlying reasons for looking unapproachable
Part 4: How to be approached more
- Head tilted down
- Wrinkle because of tense eyebrows
- Tense jaw
- Smile in the corner of the mouth
- Slight crows feet in corner of eyes
- Relaxed jaw
1. Relax your face
Relax the muscles in your face if you tend to tense up. Make sure your lips and teeth don’t press together. Pay extra attention to the areas around your eyes.
2. Practice a casual smile
Smile slightly with the corners of your mouth if you usually frown. Don’t just smile when you meet people, but make it a habit to do it in general. It will feel weird before you make it a habit.
3. Smile with your eyes
You know that your eye smile when you get “crows feet” in the outer corner of your eyes. Ease up a stern face using a light version of this smile together with a smile in the corners of your mouth.
4. Relax your eyebrows
Relax your eyebrows if you tend to get a wrinkle between the two. This wrinkle signals anger, but you might do it because of discomfort.
5. Ask good friends why they think you look unapproachable
Tell friends you trust that you’re afraid that you look unapproachable. Ask them why they think it could be. They might notice things about yourself that you had no clue about yourself.
Be clear that you don’t want supporting words but their honest opinion on what could make you could improve.
6. Keep a little bit of extra eye contact
Look people in the eyes. When you greet people, keep a second of extra eye contact after you’ve shaken hands.
Eye contacts make friendly situations more friendly and hostile situations more hostile. Therefore, it’s important to keep eye contact with a relaxed face. Blink once. That makes it feel less like a stare.
7. Look in people’s general direction
Don’t look straight at people, but in their general direction. When they, in turn, look at your general direction, you can look them in the eyes and give them a friendly smile.
8. Use an open body language
Use an upright posture: Straight back and arms uncrossed. If you tilt your head back, you can come off as intimidating or a stuck-up. If you tilt it down, you might come off as insecure or aloof. Therefore, keep you face vertical and your gaze horizontal.
9. Use a mirror to see how you look
Try out the examples above in a mirror. Compare the difference with and without adjusting your smile, eyebrows, and tension.
Use the mirror to practice not over-doing it.
10. Avoid things that cover up such as sunglasses, hoodies, or big scarves)
People get uncomfortable when they can’t see someone’s eyes or facial expressions clearly. Even covering your neck can signal that you’re uncomfortable: Since it’s a vulnerable area, exposing it or covering it has historically been an indicator of how comfortable we are.
11. Avoid intimidating clothes
Avoid dressing in all black or in clothes that signal that you might be eccentric or a negative to talk to. (Note: I love people who express themselves with their clothes and I often dress in black, but if you want to optimize for being approachable, avoid extremes.)
Showing a lot of skin doesn’t necessarily make you more approachable. The same thing here: If you look TOO different from those around you, it can be intimidating.
On the flip-side, you can also stand out in a good way: Having a colorful or unusual item on you or an eye-catching outfit that enhances your looks.
To know the difference, ask yourself if your outfit signals that it will be scary or safe to approach you.
12. Don’t act busy when you’re not
Be present in the moment and avoid your phone when you’re around people. Practice looking at bypassers rather than being on your phone when you have the chance. That can help you be more present in the physical world.
13. Lean toward people rather than away from them
When we feel uncomfortable, we might try to distance ourselves from the people around us. One example is sharing a couch with someone and leaning away from that person. It’s better to sit up straight, and if you make conversation and want to signal that you’re engaged, you can even lean slightly toward that person.
14. Think of something that makes you happy when you want to be seen as approachable
Think about something specific that makes you happy. Tap into that happiness and try to feel it in your entire body. I, for example, get happy when I think about meeting up with a friend for coffee. I can visualize the walk to the café and focus my attention on the positive feeling. This makes me look happier and friendlier.
15. See people as old friends
Imagine that everyone you meet is an old friend. How would you react? How would you smile? What would your face and body language be like?
16. Maximize your looks
Look your best and like you take care of yourself. Make sure that your hair looks good and get regular haircuts. Wear clothes that make you look good. If you have acne, take Vitamin A. If you are very pale, spend 20 minutes in the sun daily. If you’re overweight, look up a sustainable weight loss diet.
17. Make a positive remark if you want to start talking to someone
Making a positive remark signals that you’re open for interaction. It can be obvious and doesn’t have to be smart. Simply saying a few words is enough to let people know that you’re friendly.
“I love this view”
“The bread smells so good”
“This is such a nice house”
1. Dare to be warm first
It’s common to be standoffish if we’re a bit uncertain what the other person might think of us. To avoid rejection, we wait for the other person to be friendly before we are. That’s a mistake because the other person is probably thinking the same thing.
Dare to meet the person like you would if you’d assume that they’ll like you.
2. Ask a personal question to signal that you’re friendly and open for interaction
Ask how people are and what they do. It signals that you’re open for interaction.
– Hi, how are you doing?
– Me too! How do you know people here?
3. Use a friendly tone of voice
Use a tone that’s a bit friendlier if you usually sound harsh. Feeling nervous can tighten our throat and give us a stern voice. Ease up by practicing different ways of talking when you’re by yourself. One trick to sound friendlier is to use tonal variation: Varying more between your low and high tones.
Sometimes there are deeper reasons for why we look approachable that we need to handle first.
1. Examine if you tense up because of nervousness
2. Change the way you talk to yourself
Negative self-talk like “people won’t like me” obviously makes us more hesitant to approach people. Ironically, this hesitation makes us look unapproachable, and when we don’t get interacted with, we think it’s because people don’t like us.
Change this by challenging your critical voice. If the voice tells you that people won’t like you, remind yourself of times where people did indeed like you.
This advice is relevant if you want to be approached in a dating or flirting context.
“I’m relatively good-looking but my friends get approached way more. I’m afraid that I look unapproachable. How do I get more approached by guys?”
The earlier advice in this guide is true here as well, and here are some additional advice specifically for being approached more.
1. Keep eye contact and smile
If you make eye contact with someone, keep that eye contact a second extra and smile. You can blink once to avoid coming off as staring. Subtle flirting like this signals that you’re friendly and makes is much less scary for someone to come up to you.
2. Avoid only going out in large groups
Large groups make it scary for someone to approach. The social shame is naturally much higher if the approach doesn’t go well when there are more people to observe it. You’re likely to be approached more if you’re by yourself.
3. Behave more like you do when you’re relaxed even when you’re in public
When we get nervous we tend to restrict ourselves. Think about how you are when you’re with close friends in a safe environment. If that’s more like you, your authenticity will make you more attractive.
4. Dare to take up more space
When we feel uncomfortable, we tend to make us take up less space, both in conversations and physically.
When you’re out, you can practice taking up more space by taking a walk around the place without having a specific goal other than to “check it out”. It can feel uncomfortable but helps you expand your comfort zone.
Don’t be overly loud and be overly dominant. That can come off as over-compensating and signal insecurity.
- https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2016/02/02/scientists-have-discovered-the-source-of-your-resting-bitch-face/ Retrieved Aug 29, 2019.
- Ekman, P. (1993). Facial expression and emotion. American psychologist, 48(4), 384.
- Reisman, J. M. (1983). SACRAL: Toward the meaning and measurement of friendliness. Journal of personality assessment, 47(4), 405-413.
- Dolcos, S. & Albarracin, D. (2014). The inner speech of behavioral regulation: Intentions and task performance strengthen when you talk to yourself as a You. European Journal of Social Psychology