Like it or not, we all have little personality quirks that can make us difficult to be around. I'm talking about habits that make others uncomfortable, or traits that seem a bit off-putting. While it's totally normal and totally OK to not be 100 percent graceful in public, knowing that you aren't sure can come in handy.
Keep in mind, however, that no one exists on this earth merely to make others feel comfortable. So don't sweat it if you're quirky as can be. And also don't feel alone in your wackiness — we all have a list of funny traits a mile long. Being your true self is what matters, and everyone will like you for it.
But it's still good to be aware of the little things you do, or say, that can throw social situations through a loop. So let's start by looking at what you should aim for. As Dr. Michele Barton explains in an email to Bustle, "A calm, well-balanced individual with good hygiene, smart attire, manners, smiles, [and] open body posture ... are all key in making [you] more approachable and pleasant to be around. These characteristics indicate to others that you are open for and skilled at communication."
And that's really what it's all about — being approachable and down to chat. Knowing what it takes to be perceived this way is a skill we should all have, to one degree or another. Read on, however, for signs that you're not quite there, or are accidentally putting people off. And remember, knowing is the best place to start.
1. You Complain A Bit Too Much
Whining is sort of like the go-to conversation starter. Pointing out the crappy weather, for instance, can quickly get everyone on the same page and get a convo rolling. And yet complaining can easily go a bit too far. "Some people abuse expressive complaining, grumbling incessantly with no real interest in dialogue, problem solving, or human connection," noted wellness writer Hagar Scher on WebMD.com. In other words, feel free to whine, but don't do so mindlessly.
2. Your Facial Expressions Keep Others At Bay
Your face can and should do whatever it wants. But Barton points out that some facial expressions are a bit off-putting. If you're in a networking event, for example, it might be a good idea to be aware of what those eyebrows of yours are up to. You don't want anyone to assume you're bored, especially if you aren't.
3. You Aren't Meeting The Dress Code
Unfortunately, there are some events in life that come with a dress code. These usually include weddings, networking events, job interviews — you know, occasions that require the tiniest bit of fanciness. Barton notes that showing up in situationally inappropriate attire can put people off, and even make some feel uncomfortable. This doesn't mean altering your personal style entirely or wearing something that makes you feel totally uncomfortable by any means. It simply means finding the happy medium in certain situations where following the dress code is more important than not. So make sure you go black tie if black tie is requested.
4. You Jokingly Pick On People
We've all been guilty of the poorly-timed joke, or laughing at someone else's expense. When you're with close friends, it's usually forgivable. But the habit is better left avoided in mixed company. As Barton says, "A focus on the shortcomings and insecurities of those around you while bringing them to the public forefront is a great way to make people scatter." (Not good.)
5. Your Manners Have Seen Better Days
It can be easy to forget all about saying please and thank you, especially if you're feeling nervous in a social situation. Barton points towards this as one of the off-putting things we all do. Remind yourself, next time you go out, to pay attention to etiquette.
6. You Have Closed Off Body Language
"Body language is the most important thing in appearing approachable," said life coach Renee Cutaia Olson on HuffingtonPost.com.uk. If you're standing around with arms crossed and one foot out the door, people are going to read into that in a bad way.
7. You Don't Respect People's Bubble
Everyone has a different concept of personal space. I, for one, don't mind if people want to hug me or touch my arm while they talk. But not everyone's down for that, and noticing who is and isn't is key to getting by in public. As Barton says, "... a disrespect for the personal space or privacy are usually not well received by others." So keep an eye on that.
8. You Refuse To Have Any Fun
You don't have to pretend to have fun if you aren't, but not making the slightest attempt to be affable isn't much good either. Sometimes it's necessary to crack a smile and put on a good face, even if it means faking it for a little while. Your friends (future boss, professor, etc.) will appreciate it.
9. You Are Showing Signs Of Zero Confidence
Confidence is something that takes years to build, so don't feel bad if you don't have it yet. But do take note of the signs you are coming off as wildly uncomfortable. "You will always seem more approachable if you are confident and comfortable being yourself," Olson said. Even if that means owning your discomfort, and rocking that awkwardness.
10. You Come Off As Slightly Aggressive
You might not be able to help the tone of your voice, but you can probably tone down overt aggressiveness in your mannerisms and the way you act in public. Take a second and check yourself the next time you're at an event. Are you open and welcoming? Or do you have closed off, angry body language? See if relaxing a bit helps.
11. You Don't Help People Out
The cool thing to remember, as you reach the end of this list, is that everyone else feels and does all of these things. So if you want to put people at ease in your presence, help them out when it comes to navigating society. If they approached you, let them into your conversation, Olson suggested. They'll be so glad you did.
And that's really all it takes to being more approachable, and a bit less off-putting. Pay attention to social cues, and help others to feel comfortable. Hopefully they'll do the same for you.
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