[ADV] How to be less intimidating and more approachable in general

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[ADV] How to be less intimidating and more approachable in general Empty [ADV] How to be less intimidating and more approachable in general

Post by The Wisp on Mon Aug 24, 2015 1:10 am

So, since I'm looking to be more social in various school clubs and possibly a meet-up group or two in the coming weeks, I figure I'll get this out of the way so I can maximize my social opportunities at these events.

I think I can be a bit intimidating and hard to approach. I've now had a few different people on separate occasions off-handedly reference that I'm intimidating, as if it was obvious (it's not obvious to me). My brother has said so, and one of his friends that I interact with sometimes has also said it. This also gels with a lot of circumstantial evidence, like the fact that I was never bullied in high school and almost nobody talked to me, the fact that if I'm at a store with anybody else the cashier will usually avoid eye contact with me but not the person I'm with, the fact that people rarely initiate small talk with me even in social settings and don't seem super motivated to connect with me, and some other minor evidence.

I do have some guesses about why I might not be approachable, though. I do think I can come off as very intense in a somber, self-contained way, and lost in thought or focused on what I'm doing. I often am lost in thought/focused and I am somebody with strong emotions, but I think my resting face gives this impression even when I'm not in an intense thought mode. A male-version of resting bitch face, I suppose.

Another is that due to social anxiety I think I often have closed off body language: I often look down, I struggle to look directly at people when I talk to them if I don't know them already even to just say "hi" or to smile in a friendly way (I also half-the-time forget to smile at all when I look at people), I semi-frequently touch my face, and if I'm sitting at a desk or table I'll rest my head in my hand. Also, during interactions I fear that with new people I sometimes don't give super longer responses to answers (often because anxiety makes it hard to let go and just talk), which maybe makes me unintentionally come off as uninterested or even judgmental? Not as sure about that last one.

These seem like decent theories, but maybe more is going on. Also, in the moment I find it very hard to be aware of these things and I find it even harder to control them even when I am aware of them.

So, how can I be more approachable and less intimidating?
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[ADV] How to be less intimidating and more approachable in general Empty Re: [ADV] How to be less intimidating and more approachable in general

Post by V on Mon Aug 24, 2015 9:35 am

Wisp, it sound likes you have done a comprehensive self-analysis here, which is an excellent start and maybe even most of the battle.

It's also great that you are trying out some new clubs and Meet-up.

It may be a good idea to run these impressions with people who know you and see if you get similar feedback.  You may want to phrase it along the lines of 'I want to be more approachable and I was wondering if X is better than Y'.  Giving people a choice means they don't feel obliged to say everything is fine the way it is.


I find that when changing body language it is good to change one thing at a time.  This seems to fit in with advice about how habits can be changed.  You avoid overloading yourself and setting yourself up for failure.

With regards to conversation it can be tough thinking what to say under pressure when meeting new people.  Here you could focus on being responsive to people in terms of tone of voice as a fairly simple thing to do.

I hope this helps.  You have a lot of ideas to work with.  You only need to start with one or two.

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Post by readertorider on Tue Aug 25, 2015 7:59 am

I think you likely hit at least one nail on the head with the closed off body language bit. Ideally you want to be looking around (generally up) in a calmish way, have an open posture and be either smiling or ready to smile when approached. This is likely something you can be conditioned to do (in packed high school hallways I liked to smile at people and see them reflexively smile back and it currently feels weird to me to be looking at my feet) but it likely will take time. (And I agree with V that working on one thing at a time makes the most sense).

Would it be worth it to focus on approaching instead of being approached, however? In a group event there's usually at least one person who seems lost or bored and going up to them with a friendly/noncommittal remark might give you a chance to get more comfortable in a group situation with a more forgiving environment (in my experience the people who do approach new people are mostly hosts/organizers who have limited time). Sometimes you form a temporary buddy-ship based on you 'outsiderness', sometimes the person you approach is a critical member of the group and you end up with an 'in', sometimes the person you approaches doesn't want to talk but the person standing nearby does.

I don't know that being approachable is a critical skill unless you're someone like a minister or professor and you can't approach every single member of your congregation/student body but you want them to feel like they can come to you with their problems.
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