Have you ever found yourself at a networking event, feeling awkward and isolated, watching others engage in lively conversations while you stand alone wondering what’s wrong? You’ve dressed the part, you’re in the room, yet people don’t seem to be lining up to speak with you. If this scenario sounds all too familiar, it might be time to consider whether your approachability is the issue.
In the world of business networking, being approachable is a game-changer. Your body language and behavior can make the difference between someone viewing you as a potential referral partner or just another face in the crowd. You may not realize that you are the one getting in your own way when it comes to meeting new people and kindling business relationships. To succeed in networking, you must ask yourself a critical question: Am I approachable or alienating?
The Power of Approachability
Approachability is the quality that makes people feel comfortable approaching you and engaging in conversations. It’s the secret sauce of networking that encourages others to connect with you. To become a master networker, you must assess whether you exude approachability or radiate alienation.
Approachable individuals maintain a positive and pleasant attitude. They smile, laugh, and create an atmosphere that invites interaction. It may sound simple, but your demeanor speaks volumes. Many people don’t realize they are frowning, or that they look bored during a conversation. Try it – look in the mirror and observe how your facial expressions transform when you frown versus when you smile.
Open Body Language
In my book “Networking Like a Pro – Second Edition,” I discussed the concept of positioning during conversations. Instead of engaging in one-to-one conversations with closed-off body language, approachable networkers stand in ‘Open 2’ and ‘Open 3’ positions to ensure their stance allows for others to easily join in. They create an environment that welcomes new connections.
Approachable individuals are consistent in their actions and words. They live by their values and demonstrate authenticity. In networking, authenticity is a prized asset, as people can easily detect inconsistencies and insincerity. At networking events, conduct yourself as if every person you meet is the host of that particular event. If you were at someone’s party, you would want to make them feel good about themselves and the party, right? Make it a point to consistently engage others in conversation by being genuinely interested in them and their business.
Alienating Behaviors to Avoid
Constantly talking about personal or professional hardships can repel potential referral partners. Leave your problems at the door of networking events. If you’re always complaining or focusing on the negative aspects of life, you’re going to turn people off. Networking is an opportunity to create positive connections, not to bring others down with your grievances.
Closed-Off Body Language
Alienating individuals exhibit body language that discourages interaction. A scowl on your face or having your arms crossed over your chest can deter others from approaching you. Open and welcoming postures are essential. Put away your phone, too; being engrossed in a call or text is a sure way to miss out on a conversation with someone in the same room.
Lack of consistency between your words and your actions can erode trust and credibility. For example, if you are reiterating how much you value kindness in others and then speak poorly to a server or the event host, your potential referral partner may be skeptical of your sincerity and dependability. If you say one thing and do another, people may perceive you as insincere and unreliable.
Take Action for Improvement
To enhance your approachability and shed alienating behaviors, consider these practical steps.
When you are getting ready to go to a networking event, choose your attitude ahead of time just like you choose what to wear. Focus on maintaining a positive attitude and leave personal problems behind when attending networking events. Approach each gathering with a welcoming demeanor.
Body Language Awareness
Pay attention to your posture and facial expressions. Put a smile on your face and position yourself in an open and inclusive manner. Maintain eye contact with others, especially during conversation. Avoid behaviors that convey disinterest such as fidgeting, looking at your phone or around the room, and yawning.
Ensure that your actions align with your words… all the time. Stay authentic and consistent in your interactions by showcasing your true self when networking. Strive to be interested more than interesting during conversations. Remember, a good networker has two ears and one mouth and uses them proportionately.
The Compound Effect of Approachability
In networking, as in life, the little things add up. Approachability is a skill that can be cultivated. Don’t assume that because some of the suggestions mentioned above are simple and easy to understand that you don’t need to practice them. I recommend you practice them on a weekly basis because repetition produces results. Incorporate these strategies into your business networking efforts to create an inviting and welcoming presence.
If you’re not sure whether you’re projecting approachability or alienation, consider bringing a trusted friend or referral partner to your next networking event. Observe each other’s body language, tone of voice, and words. Afterward, engage in constructive feedback with the intention of helping each other become better referral partners.
Approachability is a critical factor that significantly influences your networking success. Networking isn’t merely about meeting people; it is also about how you make others feel when they meet you. It is about forming meaningful business relationships. Being approachable is the key to forging those connections.
Approachability isn’t a one-time achievement; it is an ongoing, lifelong practice. By mastering this trait, you can transform yourself from a wallflower into a magnet for meaningful connections. As you venture into the world of networking, remember that success is not only about the number of people you meet but also about the quality of relationships you build. Learn how to be someone who is easy to approach so you can navigate business networking events with ease and watch your connections grow.