16 Ways To Become More Approachable in the Workplace
Updated October 26, 2022
Published May 17, 2021
Jamie Birt is a career coach with 5+ years of experience helping job seekers navigate the job search through one-to-one coaching, webinars and events. She’s motivated by the mission to help people find fulfillment and belonging in their careers.
Being approachable can improve your relationships and interactions in both social and professional settings. In the office and at work events, it can help you communicate, collaborate and network more effectively. Approachability is a skill you can develop if you are aware of how your words, actions and body language make people feel.
In this article, we explain how to be approachable at work to help ensure you have a successful career.
What does it mean to be approachable?
Someone who is approachable is welcoming, friendly and easy to talk to. They make people feel comfortable around them and gain trust easily. Friends and coworkers often find them interesting and engaging to communicate with. Approachable people are usually calm and confident, and their body language invites others to interact with them. As a result, approachable individuals often have productive conversations, large professional networks and good relationships with their teams.
How to be approachable
You can improve your approachability through your attitude, behavior, body language and words. Here are steps you can take to be more approachable in professional settings:
A friendly facial expression can be inviting to people. Maintain a warm but natural smile when you are in the office or at a work event. When you make eye contact with someone, acknowledge them by smiling bigger. Other times to smile include:
When you meet someone for the first time
If the person you are looking at or talking to is smiling
When someone says something amusing
When saying goodbye or leaving a group or conversation
Practice smiling naturally by thinking of things that make you happy.
2. Make eye contact
You can also encourage people to approach you through eye contact. Maintain eye contact when you greet someone and during conversations. If you are at a conference or an event, make eye contact and smile at strangers if they look in your direction. If you feel like you are staring when making eye contact, blink occasionally or focus on the area between the person's eyes.
3. Angle toward people
When talking to someone, angle your body toward them to show your interest in the conversation. Focus on turning your feet and legs toward the person, and your body will follow. Do this whether you are sitting or standing. If you are sitting, you might also lean in slightly to show you are listening and engaged.
4. Look up
Keep your head and eyes up when walking around the office or events. When you look up and ahead, it is easier to make eye contact with and greet people. Further, many people read your face to determine your approachability. If you are staring at the floor or your feet, they cannot assess your interest.
5. Avoid fidgeting
Nervous habits can make you look anxious. Avoid fidgeting with things like your pen, keys or hair or doing something you might not be aware of, such as cracking your knuckles or touching your face. When interacting with people, focus on keeping your hands at your sides or in your lap or using them to gesture rather than fidget during conversations.
6. Mirror people
Mirroring or mimicking another person's body language can make both you and that individual feel more comfortable. This is also a useful strategy if you are unsure how to stand or carry yourself. Make sure your mirroring actions are subtle. You might nod, smile or shift your position slightly when the person you are talking to does the same.
Nod during conversations to show you are listening, paying attention and interested in what the other person is saying. Nodding shows you want to be talking to that individual. Nod gently and in moderation, however, so this nonverbal cue looks natural. Practice nodding when the other person says something you agree with.
8. Be positive
Positivity attracts people, whether you show it in your words or your body language and energy. When passing someone at work, make a positive remark or give a compliment to let them know you are friendly and open to interaction. Greet coworkers in a welcoming and genuine way that shows you like them. Focus on having warm and positive energy that invites people to connect with you.
9. Ignore your phone
It's important to be present and accessible in professional settings, which often means putting away your phone. If you are looking at your phone, people might think you are busy. They might not interact with you because they do not want to interrupt. Your phone can also distract you from making eye contact, connections and conversations with the people around you, particularly at conferences and large events where networking is essential.
Related: A Guide to Business Etiquette
10. Have an open posture
An open posture demonstrates confidence and can make people feel comfortable approaching you. Practice an open posture, if possible, by:
Sitting up straight with your shoulders back
Leaning toward speakers slightly during conversations
Placing your hands at your side rather than in your pockets or across your chest
Keeping your eyes up and forward
Practice having an open posture during meetings, in social situations and when someone enters your office. This body language is inviting and shows you are interested in the other person.
11. Show interest
Take an interest in what other people say or what they enjoy doing. Ask about their hobbies or what they did over the weekend to encourage them to open up to you. Show your interest by listening carefully to what others say and asking follow-up questions. If people think you care about their interests, opinions or issues, they might be more likely to approach you.
12. Start conversations
You might need to initiate conversations and interactions to show people you are approachable. Rather than waiting for someone to start a conversation with you at work or a conference, make the first move. Make eye contact to engage with people and put your hand out for a handshake. Be prepared with a few questions you can ask to start the conversation.
13. Keep your face and body visible
People feel comfortable when they can see your eyes and facial expression. Avoid wearing things that block your face in professional settings, such as sunglasses, hats or large scarves. Also, avoid covering your face with items such as your phone or tablet, newspapers or magazines and even your hands.
14. Dress professionally
Your appearance can have a positive first impression on others. Practice good hygiene and dress appropriately (professionally but not overdressed for the situation) so people want to be near you. When you feel good about your appearance, you may feel more confident as well, which is a trait approachable people have. Consider wearing a unique accessory, shirt, tie or bag that might inspire people to comment and start a conversation.
15. Make room for people
If you are talking with a group, provide room for others to join. Keep the circle open and inviting by putting space between you and your peers or coworkers. Maintain an open posture rather than leaning into the conversation. This strategy makes you appear more welcoming and friendly.
16. Try new things
To become more open and approachable, it might be beneficial to try new things and experiences that make you aware of different opinions, cultures and communication styles. For example, you might:
Travel to a different state or country
Try a new activity every month
Be a tourist in your own city
Read or watch documentaries about different cultures or views
Trying new things also gives you more conversation starters and discussion points with the people you meet in professional settings.
Nonverbal communication is one of many tools that can help you make a good impression in interviews and in your professional life. However, candidate assessments should be based on skills and qualifications, and workplaces should strive to be inclusive and understanding of individual differences in communication styles.
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