Friendly and Approachable

Rock the Party: How to Appear Friendly and Approachable

It’s natural to experience nervousness when meeting new people. So much hangs in the balance of that delicate first impression. Act the wrong way and you might be perceived as stupid, weird, or worst of all, the dreaded creepy.

To prevent this from happening, its important to understand body language and the way it affects perception. By reading the body language of others and managing your own, you can create the first impression that represents you best.

The Basics of Body Language

The idea of reading body language can seem like voodoo, but the truth is you’re already doing it. The mind subconsciously interprets body language and uses it to form impressions.

Do you ever have impressions of people that don’t seem justified? Maybe they strike you as strange or untrustworthy, but for no particular reason? Chances are, their body language is giving off bad signals that your brain is reacting to subconsciously.

Once you start paying attention, these signal are easy to spot. It’s a language you already speak and it’s extremely intuitive, you just need to become consciously receptive to it. This post is intended to be an overview of the basics, but there is more good info here and here.

Projecting Openness

The key to appearing friendly and approachable is projecting openness. Fortunately, it looks just like it sounds. Examples of open body language are:

  • Arms at sides (as opposed to crossed).
  • Outward facing palms
  • Legs stretched out and uncrossed
  • Elbows away from the body
  • Leaning forward (like you’re interested)
  • Standing straight (no slouching)

If you are in a good mood and open to meeting people, you’ll naturally have open body language. We run into problems when we’re in a sour or reclusive mood but still need to be sociable.

Maybe you’re tired, nervous, or a person who doesn’t enjoy big crowds. In these cases, you can actually put yourself into a more likable mood by assuming more likable body language. It sounds crazy, but it works. Force yourself to smile a giant smile and you will instantly feel (at least a little bit) happier. Try it you don’t believe me.

If you are in a social situation and feel things aren’t going well, your natural tendency will be to hide behind closed body language. This will only make things worse. You need to fight your first instinct and focus on projecting the open signals listed above.

Eye Contact

Making eye contact is crucial. Have you ever met someone who couldn’t look you in the eye? What was your perception of them?

Refusal to make eye contact conveys a lack of self confidence and trustworthiness. It makes other people suspicious and unlikely to respect you. Make a concerted effort to look every person you speak with directly in the eye. If that’s too much to ask, an old trick is picking a spot on the lower forehead to stare at.

Eye contact is also a great way to start conversations. The eyes are the window to the soul, so making eye contact creates a powerful connection. Be careful not to stare, but if you see someone you’d like speak with, try to make eye contact as you walk by. If successful, try to open up a conversation.

Adjusting to the Signals of Others

Managing your own body language is only half of the equation. The other half is recognizing and reacting to the body language of others.

If you notice a person has closed body language, it’s a sign you should give them space and proceed with caution. Some people just don’t want to be talked to. Forcing the issue will likely exacerbate their negative feelings.

That’s not to say that closed people should always be avoided, but it’s more effective to warm them up slowly. It’s likely they’re just shy or nervous. When they see your friendliness and open signals they might open up. If not, just move on. It probably has nothing to do with you personally.

Engaging in Conversation

The purpose of open body language is to encourage people to converse with you. This is where you become the life of the party, the person everyone wants to talk to.

Conversation is a subtle art, and this deserves an entire post, but the most important thing I’ve learned can be conveyed in a paragraph:

Ask people about themselves. Find what they’re passionate about and what they’re trying to achieve in life. The answers are often fascinating and different than you’d expect. Your sincere interest will endear you to them and you’ll learn a lot as well. Naturally, they will ask you them same questions about yourself, and in only a few minutes you have made a lasting connection.

Image by dave_apple

  • http://galvanizd.blogspot.com Will is GALVANIZD

    A nice post related to your previous article of talking to strangers.

    While a basic primer to body language, this can be expounded and explored further. You are bang on about being friendly and approachable can be conveyed through body language subtle cues (and not so subtle ones) that one can elicit people to actually engage in conversation with you in the first place.

    I agree that eye contact being so powerful it’s ridiculous. I’ve written about it as being the precursor to sparking a connecting with someone when combined with a subtle cue of naturally smiling.

    I feel that there’s this natural magnetism behind it that shouldn’t be broken down, as it takes away from the enjoyment of engaging in someone makes eye contact (not staring/leering) and smiling at the same time.

    Being in the company of other people while laughing and having an AWESOME TIME conveys that you are open, friendly and approachable as well.

    Finally, while a bit more esoteric, having a solid belief system of one’s self and about others that is congruent with being “friendly and approachable” is paramount. When you already “are” friendly and approachable and believe it (not delusion), you really don’t really need to “try” as others will want to engage you.

    John, I really am enjoying your posts about socializing and soft-skills. Keep em coming!

  • http://www.srichinmoybio.co.uk/blog Tejvan Pettinger

    Asking people about themselves is a good plan. People always feel at ease when talking about themselves!

  • http://http:juiceofchampions.com/home Brad Baggett

    Great post! I have really enjoyed your article lately about making friends and getting out in the world networking. It is so important to be approachable. I have always had a bad habit of crossing my arms that I have to constantly battle. It is so true though, I see someone with their arms cross and no matter what they seem less approachable.

    http://www.JuiceofChampions.com

  • http://www.varsityblah.com/about Eugene (Editor, Varsity Blah)

    It’s important to always ask questions that show you’re interested. As long as you get people to talk about themselves and take a sincere interest in their lives, you’re bound to get along.

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  • Michelle

    One aspect that this article missed was that the body language is not always the same across different cultural groups. For example, I’ve worked with individuals who felt that eye contact was disrespectful. While your suggestions are good as general guidelines, depending on the cultural backgrounds of those around you, they may not be entirely accurate. Here are a couple of websites that discuss some of the differences (again in general terms, but this time by cultures):
    http://www.medhunters.com/articles/bodyLanguageAcrossCultures.html
    http://www.intranet.csupomona.edu/~tassi/gestures.htm

  • Jeff

    Try throwing a party but the rules are no talking about family or work. You’ll be amazed how quickly you can davelope small talk and be more creative.

  • http://tdarkone.blogspot.com Ignacio

    great post!
    Most of the times we don’t “see” how we stand, how we look and how we interact with people, we just do it; this is a very helpful guide to be conscious of what we´re doing and how to improve our relationships.
    Thanks a lot.

    What about the face? Our eyes are not the only elements that make us look friendly (don’t use sun glasses!). The eyebrow, the smile are important too. don’t you think?

  • mike

    Great Post! Does anyone know how to anonymously send this post to the entire IT department here at work?? I would say 9 out of 10 of them are NOT approachable at all. To me, they all seem stuck up or too good to talk to us.

    • mike g

      Well, I could be considered an IT – type guy (I’m an engineering student), so I may have at least some small insight into their minds. My mind often is just completely blank when I try to start a conversation. In fact, it’s blank a lot in general. I don’t even have much of an inner monologue except when I’m narrating my own actions in my head.

      I don’t consider it a lack of confidence. I played trumpet solos in marching band so that definitely is not the case. It’s more a matter of having any comment at all. A lot of times I feel like I’m focusing on my five senses so much and trying to be aware of as much as possible that I imagine starting a conversation with the kid next to me, but all I can think of to say is “hello” or “how was your day.” Then when they respond, I have nothing left, so I hardly even bother. Sometimes their response indicates a different topic that I can delve into, but most of the time people keep their dialogue short, which is very difficult to work with.

      It wasn’t always like this when I knew more people… I even recall making some good friends in high school when I had a day here or there where the stars magically aligned and I could think of things to say.

      Today, it’s blank as ever.

      • Anonymous User

        This is a year late, but i can relate to this post. However for me it was the opposite way, chronologically. I developed throughout my childhood as a quite isolated child, with a limited circle of friends and a definite lack of social skills and confidence.
        Although i’m not sure if the confidence was such a large deal, in retrospect. I felt this strong pervasive sense of blankness whenever i spoke to people, and this caused all conversations to end only a little after they started, and this was in spite of any social or body language skills i may have had.
        However, i moved to a boarding school just 2 years back, and from then on not only my confidence but my ability to have a conversation just blew right up.
        And this went hand in hand with the blankness, soon it began to fade away. I think this was from this prolonged exposure to many people, a lot of the time.
        I further justify this idea from holidays i have, where i have travelled back home or somewhere much more isolated from friends. I find that after even just a week, the blankness i feel during conversation comes back, if only for half a day or so.
        But this gives me a growing suspicion that this blankness is not simply a phase, but something one must be aware of throughout life. And if one wants to grow above it one must expose themselves to people, to the extent that this idea of ‘conversation’ is omni-present in the mind and thus able to deal with this problem.

        Alas, i am about to leave the boarding school, and enter the wide world where the community is not so kind and welcoming, and well, friendship isn’t served onto a platter to me. It scares me, but i look for hope in ideas i’ve collected from family members and friends who have gone through the same, and also this blog:
        http://www.talktostrangersblog.com/
        Check it out, i have absolutely no idea if this is of any use to me, but this inspired me as to how i can sustainably deal with this problem.
        Maybe it will work, maybe it won’t, but maybe i have no other choice, y’know?
        Good luck with everything

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  • Matt

    Just wanted to say that this is an excellent post. I’ve heard some of it before, but it’s great to see it all (and more) jumbled into one guide. :)

  • rima

    hmmm well thas true, there’s usually the shy defensive smile that we display as soon as we meet someone. what if we considered them someone we have known since school? wouldnt that work amazingly? btw, being too concerned about your body language doesnt help either :D
    the problem with people is that they take too many things way too seriously. approachable people are those who dont give two damns about insignificant issues… that is fun!

  • Boob Biter

    Take off your pants. Never seen anyone seem more approachable.

  • B

    You certainly have to overcome shyness when working in sales and retail.

  • http://n/a the game

    this site is really helpfull

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  • Brooklynfemale

    There is a cultural thing I learned at home that didn’t help me outside of it. At home, direct eye contact was seen as sign of disrespect and a form of confrontation, but when I was at school, not looking a teacher in the eye made her think I was up to something.

    Not that it’s a bad thing, but I think the advice in this article relies heavily on mainstream Western cultural memes. Some subcultures don’t do things the same way. I have a hard time looking people in the eye even today, becuase it’s such an intense thing and I was taught not to do it.

  • sand

    yaa thats nice but i m also a very shy type of a person
    and don t have 2 many friends but i wants to overcome it plz give me ur suggestens at jesself@ymail.com OK

  • Simon Amezi

    nice article. i enjoyed it very much,kudos.

  • shy-anon

    very helpful!

  • Shawn Pruitt

    I really enjoyed reading this post. I thought it was very insightful on how important body language and projecting the image of openness. Everyone needs to have these qualities, I believe, because with these qualities, more friends can be created and less conflicts can arise. Obviously, being more welcoming can be a great benefit at a party or social gathering where connecting with conversation is imperative. In fact, combine this with a good outfit for the mood of the party, and the result is grand. :)

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  • http://www.mypromdresses.co.uk/ prom gowns

    Excellent information here. This interesting post made me smile.

  • http://www.shyFAQ.com Tim at SHYFAQ

    The best way to appear friendly and approachable? Be friendly and approach others first. Sure, I know it’s hard. I know you may be rejected. But nothing beats the body language of walking towards someone with your hand extended and a big smile on your face!

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  • http://www.phorge.com.sg Jesper Ong

    One thing I did to kickstart myself to overcome my shyness was to actually fly overseas and take a vacation all by myself – with minimal knowledge or research in the destination.
    This helped force me to talk to people because otherwise, I would just be a helpless foreigner.
    Sure at the start it was asking for directions or locations and whatnot, and sometimes you meet people who willingly start a conversation with you first.
    Sooner than later I found myself alot more confident and started asking names and opening conversations.
    All I needed to do after, was bring that confidence home.

  • http://www.cuckooville.wordpress.com Diamond wolf

    thanks for the great info. Many already say I’m friendly–mostly smile a lot and find humor is a great way to keep the morale going in the workplace and when friends get in a miserable mood or when tention is rising.

  • Dgadia37

    very futile information and suggestions

  • http://flawlessconfidence.com Martin

    Eye contact and smile – these are the most important things. Not only when you’re at the party, but in everyday life. If you want to appear friendly and approachable, just start smiling more often. Open body language is also important, but I think that if you’re smiling and looking someone in the eye, it’s enough to invite them to have a chat with you.

  • Rana

    nice!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Joe Watt

    Outward facing palms? If you face your palms outward you will give the impression that you’re a freak. 

    • Anonymous

      Haha! I was thinking the exact same thing! Like, what the heck?!

    • Steven Wooding

       I think he means forward facing palms

  • Lul

    Lean over them with your hands and palms towards them.. Smile a great big smile and ask questions about them. make sure you stare into their eyes: how to get a restraining order or how to appear more friendly?

  • kasim

    cool

  • taz aabha

    A long time ago my mother told me “there’s a fine line between shyness and selfishness.” I now see that they’re the same thing.

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  • Try it!

    I laugh at the these comments from posters.  You will be amazed by just trying these how far you really can get in any conversation.  Palms up when talking instead of down, eye contact (which is huge), do not slouch but keep an upright posture (not rigid upright mind you), keep a small smile on your face, appear pleasant, not stand-offish, angry or creepy.  Nod your head in a yes manner ever so slightly when speaking (gets them to agree with your ideas more easily).  These are all extremely powerful and once you start using them..will be amazed by the results.

  • M J Daly12

    I understand everything but i would only be able to do it mentally and not physically so if anyone has any suggestions of how i could learn to use this 
    physically it would be helpful

  • Injinplease

    I love this site but the typo’s  are distracting and it makes good information seem less so . 

    • Blhannahco

      But you just made 3 typos – #1 no apostrophe after “typo”. Your spacing & pluralism of information. You’re cool. Just be cool.

  • Injinplease

    I love this site but the typo’s  are distracting and it makes good information seem less so . 

  • http://twitter.com/StonyBoyArtist stonyboy

    Very interesting, I normally party end of the month pay day like this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5_LF5IVoyM

  • Miche

    These suggestions are quite generic.  Forward/Outward facing palms, though –   lol   hilarioius

  • Alarmendariz562

    Im a shy person and reading this information is helping me deal with my problem

  • Namtaprasad

    Lean Over Them Stare Deeply Into Their Eye Shove Your White Palms Into Their Face,Smile Smile Greatly Ask  Questions Repededly Widden Your Eyes Like A Chimpmunck:How To Get A Restraining Order 2

  • welcomedition

    it would be nice if others would do this for once so that i didn’t have to always do all the work in being friendly. where are all the nice, friendly people, who acknowledge someone new and don’t just brush them off if they’re not as loud as everyone else

  • Joel

    Really impressive piece of information.Will surely follow your tips in selimproving myself.Keep up the Good work

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