If you walk into your local bookstore and pick up any random title on interpersonal communication, the majority of the books will simply remind you to "always be approachable."
Wow, you think, thanks for the advice.
But when you walk into a room full of strangers, attend a national conference or start a new job, that advice doesn’t help maximize your approachability.
In my book, The Power of Approachability, my goal was to help the reader change his or her paradigm of communication and think of every interaction – big or small, online or off – in terms of approachability.
Now, as the research continues, I’ve created a new model. It’s called The Approachability Indicator™. For the past five years, I’ve examined thousands of case studies, scientific journals, books, interviews, surveys and articles on what the world thinks approachability means. And although the research showed that various disciplines and people viewed the idea differently, there were several fascinating commonalities among all the sources.
This system will teach you what approachability is, why it's critical to successful communication, and it will provide you with concrete techniques to MAXIMIZE it.
To begin, the word “approachability” derives from the Latin verb apropiare, which means “to come nearer to.” Therefore, approachability is a two way street. And the model represents both inbound and outbound channels. Outbound, or proactive approachability, is stepping onto someone else’s front porch. It’s about being bold. It’s about breaking the silence. And it’s about taking initiative. Inbound, or reactive approachability, is welcoming others onto your front porch. It’s about openness. It’s about availability. And it’s about making yourself accessible to others.
All types of approachability fall into one of seven categories. (To see a diagram of The Approachability Indicator™ as used in my workshops and seminars, refer to the website at the end of this article.)
As you read the list below, each section will give you several techniques to help MAXIMIZE it!
Building Social Capital
Willingness to develop new relationships
- Acknowledge people you know
- Welcome new business/personal relationships with various types of people
- Network for the purpose of mutually valuable relationships, not sales
What You Say
Dynamics of conversation
- Patiently allow others to interrupt you for conversational clarity
- Leave a conversation making your partner feel good about himself
- Make sure every person in the group is involved in the conversation
What You Don't Say
- You have two ears and one mouth – listen and talk accordingly
- Use gestures when you talk
- Wear clothes that make you look and feel comfortable
Keeping It Real
- Inspire others instead of impress them
- Become the world's expert on yourself
- Show others that you enjoy what you do
Drop Me A Line
- Return phone calls and emails within 24 hours
- Carry several business cards in your bag, car or wallet
- Avoid Hotmail, AOL, or Yahoo for business transactions
Openness of personal space
- Greet others, even if you’re not designated as a "greeter"
- Stop what you’re doing to address someone who comes to you
- Seek out the first timers at meetings and parties
Openness of mind and heart
- Make every encounter with another person feel valued
- Find the answers to questions you don't know instead of "faking it"
- Address both trivial and serious problems of people who come to you
This model also revolves around five benefits of maximum approachability. These factors answer the question: Why is approachability so important?
The first is opportunity. With strangers, you never know whom you’ll meet. With acquaintances, friends or family, you never know what you’ll learn. And with people in general, you never know how it’ll reciprocate. But you never will know until you take that first step. In other words, “you can’t win if you don’t play,” “to grab the fruit you must go out on a limb,” “the turtle only makes progress when he sticks his neck out,” and the like.
The second benefit is confidence. When people perceive you as approachable, they are confident they can bring their issues, ideas and true selves to you. And when you equip yourself with the techniques and tips for starting, maintaining and closing conversations, it will reassure your own ability to become and UNFORGETTABLE communicator.
The third benefit of approachability is permission. Because we live in a fast paced, fear based culture, we need to inform others that it’s ok to communicate. According to interpersonal communication textbooks, humans engage with each for five reasons: to inquire, to relate, to play, to help or to manage. Still, none of those motivators can be carried out without permission.
The next benefit is comfort, and it is absolutely essential to approachability. From remembering names to open body language to appropriate topics of discussion, comfort is king. And if you want to assure that co-workers, clients, friends, family – even strangers – can approach you AND be approached by you, they have to be comfortable. And so do you.
Lastly, there’s trust; and it’s the summation of opportunity, confidence, permission and comfort. Imagine you’ve got a flat tire in the middle of nowhere. Your cell phone has no service. You’re stuck! So, you walk into town seeking help. About an hour later you come across two houses on opposite sides of the road. One is dark, deserted and dilapidated. The other has its lights on and a family sitting out on the front porch.
Which house would you choose?
99% of the people I ask this question choose the second house because it exudes opportunity. They're confident the family is friendly and they’re comfortable saying hello to them. Ultimately, the front porch gives them permission to step up and trust that the strangers be willing to help them out of a bind.