Body language: How can I look more approachable?

When we use body barriers, we signal to other people to leave us alone.

They make you look extremely unapproachable. For that reason, avoid things like folded arms. You might find that you’re clutching a handbag too tightly. If you have a drink, instead of holding it at a relaxed waist level you start to bring it up to your chin. Again, that creates a very strong barrier that implies to the other person that you would rather be left alone.

Use your eyes to signal approachability. When you’re in a room full of people, be careful about starring or looking at the floor. Scan the room with your eyes, which signals others that you’re you’re friendly and actively approachable.

Remember to smile with your eyes. Soften your expression. Sometimes when we get nervous our eyes just go into a vacant stare. If you smile with your eyes, people will know that you’re going to be friendly if they do come and speak to you.

Smiling with the mouth is an animal signal of introduction, it’s an evolutionary thing. Monkeys pull their lips back and show their teeth when they want to show that they’re not going to fight another ape. If you remember to smile nicely and do a nice even smile which will look genuine, people will know that you mean to be friendly.

Use what are called intentional gestures. They oil the wheels and make a communication easier. If you’re approaching somebody to shake hands, don’t just wait until you get up and just shove your hand out. Put your hand out from a distance and they’ll know that you’re going to shake hands and they’ll get their hand ready to respond. If you want to interrupt somebody when they’re speaking and you just raise your hand slightly that lets them know that you want to speak.

Be careful about using what are called self-comfort gestures. These are the fiddly things that we do when we start to feel anxious or under pressure. Don’t start twiddling with your hair, that will show your anxiety. Playing with things on chains or jewellery, it makes you look as though you don’t really want to speak to people. Watch out for what are called metronomic gestures where you tap something like a foot or a pen. They tend to let the other person know that you’re impatient and you can’t hang around to hear what they have to say.