How do you build relationships if people are scared to talk to you?
Posted by Molly Wendell // in NetworkingPeople I Meet
I often say that it takes a lot of little impressions to make a big impression. And it’s with this in mind that I think about the idea of approachability.
It’s hard to build relationships when people feel like they can’t even talk to you. Have you ever said hello to people, only to have them practically bite your head off. Geez pal, maybe you should lay off the caffeine for a while!
But this idea of approachability – I think about it often. I think about it often because often times I run across people who don’t seem very approachable. In fact, not very nice. And this is before I’ve even had the opportunity to meet them. What’s my first clue? It’s the face. It’s the way they maintain eye contact. But really, what it all comes down to is – it’s the smile. If you smile at me, I’ll smile back (and chances are pretty good I was already walking around with a partial smile – and you just helped me make it whole).
I was in the gym this morning. My path was about to cross another. At first, I looked at him, then I glanced away. Then, thinking that wasn’t nice, I glanced back, smiled and said hello. He smiled back. All of this happened in the span of about two seconds. Did this interchange make my day? No, but it didn’t ruin his either (at least I don’t think so).
Why is this important? Because if you want to build relationships, you need to have a welcoming demeanor. One that says “Hey, I’m someone to get to know. And I won’t even bite your head off.”
Some people walk around with a perma-smile. Whether they’re truly happy or that’s how their face was formed, I’m not quite certain. But, my hasty generalization is that they lead a more positive life. I’ve also seen just the opposite – those whose lips either take a straight line or form down into somewhat of a frown. And my hasty generalization here is that they’re not as nice, they’re intimidating (maybe to the point of being a little scary), and they border on the negative.
So what are you? And how do you know. One thing you could do is look in the mirror at your natural face. Does smiling come easy to you? Another telltale sign is when you’re out and about. Do people ask you what time it is? Do they ask you for directions? Do you find yourself engaging in conversation with strangers? When I’m traveling abroad, I’m often approached by strangers. In European countries, I’m asked for directions – sometimes by tourists, but sometimes by locals too. In countries where it’s obvious I’m not native, I’m still approached – especially by people who want to practice their English if only for a minute. And the funny thing is, I’m happiest when I’m traveling abroad. I love it so much, and it obviously shows on my face. But the other thing is, I’m here to help. I have a helpful attitude going on. I have a welcoming demeanor.
Do you want to have a more welcoming demeanor? Because let me tell you, it’s a lot easier to build relationships with one than without one! What can you do to develop yours more fully? Here are a few ideas:
1. Walk around making eye contact with others (but not in a creepy way). Don’t look away when someone looks at you. Break into a smile and say hello, good morning or good afternoon.
2. When walking into the office, a meeting or networking event, put your best face on. Say words like cheese, bees, (help me) please. They all end in a nice, pleasant smile. If you don’t want to go the full distance, you can say (silently – upon approach) something like “Did you lose weight?” But you need to say the entire phrase. It ends in the perfect grin – one that’s not overboard, yet is pleasant enough. In other words, you’re approachable.
3. Wear a mentality that says “I’m here to help.” When you truly are here to help, people notice. Look for ways to offer a hand.
A few years ago, I saw a woman in a grocery store parking lot. She was crying and I asked her if she was okay. Turns out she locked her keys in her car and her infant was sitting there still in the back seat. Tears streamed down as she told me that there was no way to open the car. Fortunately, a few years back, I had owned the same car – and locked my keys in it one too many times. I got my coat hanger out of my trunk (there for just these type of emergencies) and got to work on the window. Within about 30 seconds, the door was open. She thanked me and as I was walking away, I heard her other little girl ask “Mommy, what’s a savior?” I felt pretty good that day. But if you walk around looking for ways to help out, you’ll end up feeling pretty good most of the time!
There’s plenty more when it comes to impressions – but approachability is a good starting point, because if no one wants to approach you, it’s pretty difficult to build deep relationships. Which brings me to – hey, did you lose weight?
P.S. Happy Birthday Dad!