How many times has this happened to you: you’ve decided that you’re going to be more social, so you commit to going out more and meeting people in person. However, every time you go out, the night ends the same way: with you going home alone, feeling lower than a snake’s ass in a drainage ditch because you didn’t talk to anyone. Worse, it seems like nobody wanted to talk to you, either. So now you’ve blown another evening, shredded your self-esteem, and you’re feeling as though you’re just one of those people who’s going to die alone and unloved.
God knows I’ve had more nights like that than I care to count. Every time, it left me a little more convinced that there was just something wrong with me as a person. Talking to strangers, making friends, even just getting phone numbers or dates felt like an impossible fantasy — something that happened to other people, but not to me.
But I was wrong. It wasn’t that I was unattractive or undesirable. It wasn’t about who I was, but what I was doing. What I didn’t realize was that I had been making a lot of mistakes that were making me come across as unapproachable. It was only after I started paying attention to what the popular people were doing that I started realizing that my behavior meant that I was sending out the wrong message and leaving people with the wrong idea about me.
Once I started to adjust my actions, I discovered that, contrary to what I had thought, people wanted to talk to me. I just needed to make myself more approachable.
If you’re struggling to meet people or getting people to connect with you, then you may be unwittingly making those same mistakes. The first impression you make on people is important, and how you act before you even say a word can dictate how people see you and respond to you. Regardless of whether you’re at the coffee shop, a friend’s party or out on the town, you want to make sure you’re not sending the wrong signals. Here’re 5 ways you’re making yourself unapproachable… and how to fix it.
Mistake #1: You’re Not Giving Approach Invitations
The first mistake people make all the time is that they don’t signal that they’re open to talking to people. A lot of folks often don’t realize that just because you showed up to a public event or venue, that doesn’t mean that people are going to assume that you actually want to be social. Even at events where mixing and mingling and talking to strangers is expected, most people aren’t going to just randomly go up to others and start conversations with all and sundry. They want to talk to people who want to talk to them; if that person doesn’t look like they’re interested, they’re certainly not going to make the first move.
When guys struggle to meet people while they’re out and about, it’s usually because they’re not making it clear that they are interested in talking to others. People keep their distance because those guys are coming off as cold or uninterested in them. Ironically enough, guys tend to make this mistake because they’re too busy looking for approach invitations from other people to think about how they’re coming across to others.
We talk a lot about looking for signals from women that indicate that they want you to come talk to them, but we rarely talk about the need for men to send those signs too. By being so intent on looking for people who’re into them, they end up sending the wrong message to everyone else. This creates an unfortunate, self-perpetuating cycle of disinterest: you come off as uninterested in others and so other folks — people who might otherwise be up for talking to you — keep their distance and don’t send signals of their own.
Here’s the thing: most people aren’t going to go where they aren’t wanted. If someone thinks that you don’t want to talk to them, they’re not going to make the effort at all. By making it clear that you’re social, friendly and, importantly, interested in them, you make it that much easier to get a conversation started. The reason why so many guys fail to see — or receive — approach invitations is because they don’t come across as friendly, open or social. That sets the tone for how people are going to interpret your behavior, and people will respond according to that interpretation.
It’s not a matter of “who’s supposed to approach who”, it’s a matter of being receptive to others. Even if you’re going to be the one making the first move — and society still pushes back against women who take the initiative — you want to make it clear that you’re interested in talking to them first. Sending those approach invitations sets the tone and tells people that you find them interesting and would like to talk to them. That, in turn, invites them to decide whether they’re going to signal you to come say hello or make the first move themselves.
How Do You Fix This?
The fix here is fairly easy: you want to give good face. The simplest, most direct and most versatile sign that you’re interested in talking to someone is to make eye contact and smile. The act of simply just catching someone’s eye and giving a warm smile sends a very clear message: you’ve noticed them and you’re happy to see them. That warmth carries a lot of weight; people respond more positively to it and it encourages them to reciprocate.
The gesture’s very simplicity is what makes it so versatile. With slight variations, you can send a host of different signals. The classic “look, look away, look back and smile,” for example, is a strong sign of interest in somebody else. Eye contact with a slow smile can be very sexy indeed. Similarly, an eyebrow flash gives it a playful and flirty feel, while a single raised eyebrow with that smile has a bit of a rakish edge.
But regardless of whatever you add to it, the simple act of making eye contact and smiling tells people that you’re open to talking to them. It helps create a warmer, more welcoming energy that people will respond to. That, in turn, prompts them to respond with a smile and invitation of their own. If you want folks to feel comfortable approaching you — or to invite you to come talk to them — then you need to make it clear that you’re interested. Otherwise people will assume that you’re not feeling it and they’ll leave you alone… just like you’re asking them to.
It’s important to note that it’s the combination of eye contact and a smile that’s important. Without the eye contact, people aren’t going to be as aware that you’re smiling at them; they’re more likely to think that you’re smiling at someone behind them or next to them. Without the smile… well, you run the risk of looking like you’re considering whose skin would make the most attractive belt and shoes combination.
On a related note…
Mistake #2: You’re Giving “Do Not Disturb” Signals
Here’s a thought experiment for you: you’re sitting at the counter at your local diner. There’s a woman two seats down from you who looks exactly like what you would come up with if a genie gave you three wishes… and she’s staring intently at her phone. Her eyebrows are slightly creased, her mouth is a little tense and she has been scrolling or typing without looking up for the last 15 minutes.
What vibe is she giving off in that moment? Is that someone who’s open to talking to somebody, or is she clearly intent on something important?
If you answered “she’s busy with something important,” then congratulations: you read things correctly. That’s not the behavior of somebody who’s open to meeting a charming stranger, and likely wouldn’t appreciate the interruption.
Now think of how many times you have been scrolling on your phone when you’ve been out and about — at a party, let’s say. Sure, you may have been doing it so you didn’t look like you were standing around by yourself like some loser… but seeing as people can’t read your mind and likely aren’t reading over your shoulder, they have no way of knowing that’s what you’re doing. As far as they’re concerned, you’re sending off one of the universal “do not disturb” signs.
Another very common mistake guys make when trying to meet women is that they inadvertently put barriers up between themselves and other people. Even someone who thinks you’re the hottest thing since World War III isn’t going to want to bother you when you seem like you’re busy. At best, it’s rude; at worst, they’re worried that they’re going to bother you and make you dislike them. When you pair this with not giving those “I’m interested in talking to you” signals, then what you’re doing is telling the world to leave you alone… even if that’s literally the opposite of what you want.
In fact, there’re a lot of ways that guys end up telling folks to leave them alone. If you’re seated at the bar and focused on your drink or reading a book in the corner or staring at the TV without saying anything, you’re slouched in the corner and staring off into the distance… those are all classic “don’t talk to me” signs. It doesn’t matter that you’re hoping for someone to actually come rescue you from your loneliness. Since people can’t read your mind, they’re going to go by whatever signals you’re sending. And the ones you’re sending may well be “go the fuck away.”
How Do You Fix This?
You want to be more conscious of not just what you’re doing but how it could come across to someone who doesn’t have a realtime feed of what’s going on in your head. Imagine seeing someone looking and acting like you are and how that comes across to you. If you’re focusing intently on one particular thing, that’s going to tell the people around you that this is what you want to pay attention to. Your body language conveys similar messages. If you’re hunched over your drink in the corner, you’re going to seem uninterested in talking to people. That’s the universal posture of “I want to drink and be left alone.”
If you want to be more approachable, then you need to make sure that you’re sending the right signals to the room. One of the most important things you can do is pay attention to where you are and what direction you’re facing; that will tell people a lot about what you’re up to. As a general rule, if you want to meet people, you want to be in places where it’s easier for people to come over and talk to you. That means making sure you’re where the action is — the places where people are hanging out and talking.
If you’re getting a drink and you want people to talk to you, for example, then you want to post up in the middle of the bar. That makes it more likely for people to sit next to you and around you. That, in turn, makes it easier to strike up a conversation with them.
By that same token, you want to face the action wherever possible. If you’re just facing the bartender, that says you’re more focused on your drinking. If you turn slightly to the side, you’re angling yourself in a way that makes you more open to talking to the people on that side. However, if, on the other hand you’ve turned around and you’re looking out and facing the room, you’re making it clear that you’re interested in the things going on around you. That, combined with open, relaxed body language and a smile, signals to others that you’re up for meeting people.
When in doubt, think about what behavior you’d want to see from someone else that would make you more likely to feel confident about coming over to them and adopt it yourself. Modeling the behavior that would encourage you makes it that much easier to find the folks who think like you do and start building that connection.
Speaking of sending the wrong signals…
Mistake #3: You’re Not Being Social
Just as folks inadvertently send “do not disturb” signs, they also unknowingly send signs that they don’t want to meet new people. In fact, many times, their behavior is saying the exact opposite of what they want. The paradox of trying to be more social and meet people is that the people who are best at it… are more social and meet lots of people. So if you’re someone who’s, say, trying to break a lifelong pattern of shyness, making that initial leap can be incredibly daunting. After all, when you’re already suffering from approach anxiety and social awkwardness, it’s a lot harder to break out of your shell among strangers.
Except that reticence can actually end up making things worse without meaning to. After all, people tend to take their cues from the behavior of the people around them. Somebody who’s engaged with the people around them, making small talk and otherwise interacting with others, we can reasonably assume that they’re a friendly, sociable person. On the other hand, if they’re off by themselves or staring into their drink, we tend to think that they’d rather be left alone.
Now, some folks will try to help break through their shyness or social anxiety by going out with friends. It’s a lot easier to go out and do new things when you’ve got your crew with you for backup, encouragement and moral support. This is one reason why a lot of folks will go out with a wingman or woman — having someone in your corner can help you feel empowered to push through your anxiety and go talk to people.
However, bringing your friends with you can also end up keeping you from meeting folks if you’re not careful. It’s easy to get caught in the trap of only hanging out and talking with your friends — especially at parties. While this can feel safer and more comfortable, it also makes it harder to talk to new folks. Trying to approach people who’re in a group can be intimidating when you’re the one trying to meet people. It’s just as intimidating for people who might want to talk to you. If you’re not careful, hanging with your buddies can have the exact opposite effect of what you were looking to achieve when you’re single and looking to mingle.
How Do You Fix This?
There’re a couple things you can do to avoid falling into this trap.
The first is to warm up before you go out, especially if you’re planning on going out alone. One of the reasons why it can be so hard for folks to be more social is that they’re frequently trying to shift from first to fifth gear without anything in between. Small wonder they find it hard to connect with folks at first; they’re often still in the same headspace that they were in at home. By making it a point to warm up, socially, you help ease yourself into a different mood. If you’re going out by yourself, make a point of trying to meet up with a friend for dinner or a drink first. Failing that, you might want to talk to a friend on the phone or FaceTime or Skype to help shift yourself into a more social mood.
Now, this won’t always be feasible or convenient; after all, your friends aren’t always going to be available, and a lot of folks just don’t like talking on the phone. However, you can still warm up before you get started and set yourself up for success at the same time. At a bar, for example, making small talk with the bartender can pay huge dividends. Not only is it an opportunity to stretch your social muscles in a low-stakes environment, but talking to them helps create that social mood that invites other people to join in. Plus, bartenders will frequently draw other people into the conversation — effectively acting as a wingman of sorts for you.
Plus, getting familiar with the bar staff makes it a lot easier to feel at ease at the bar. Becoming a regular helps overcome that sense of feeling out of place, which can help you feel more confident in general.
Similarly, if you’re going to a party — especially one where you may not know many people — start with the people you do know and work your way out from there. If you’re feeling intimidated, or your friends haven’t arrived yet, talk to the host. Let them know that you don’t know too many people and ask if they could introduce you around. Having someone facilitate the introductions goes a long way towards easing you through any social anxiety and into that charming and charismatic headspace as you relax.
If you’re out with your friends, try to make sure that you don’t cluster up into a closed circle. When everyone’s standing in a semi-circle or more open shape, it feels less exclusionary and closed off. That makes it more feasible for people to join you… or to invite them over. You should also make a point of stepping away on occasion. Beyond taking the time to go and mingle and talk to folks besides your buddies, stepping away gives other people the chance to come talk to you without feeling like they have to run the gauntlet of your friends. Just as you might feel better approaching someone when they’ve stepped away from their crew, people who want to talk to you would appreciate the chance to catch you alone.
So make sure that you give them that chance.
Mistake #4: You’re Kinda Scary
Back in the days of Spill.com, the League of Extremely Ordinary Gentlemen would regularly invite friends and fans over for get-togethers. Those, combined with official Spill parties, meant that we got to know a lot of our fans — many of whom became good friends of ours. But one of the things I heard a lot back then was “dude… you’re kind of intimidating.”
Now, this was a surprise to me. I could be described as many things, but intimidating? That never would’ve reached my top 10. I’m cuddlier than a stuffed bear. What I was missing, however, was how I was coming across to other people. While I’m not exactly tall — I’m 5’8″ in my bare feet — I’m built like a linebacker, and when I’m tense or nervous, I tend to hold my shoulders up. That has the effect of giving me the appearance like I’m looking for a fight. Moreover, I have a tendency towards “resting murder face”. That, combined with a style that I call “well-heeled Metallica roadie” helped create a sense that I was about to beat somebody’s ass.
While you may not necessarily look like you’re spoiling for a fight, it’s entirely possible that your vibe puts people off without meaning to. A lot of guys can have an antisocial, unfriendly demeanor without realizing it. While inside they may be as soft and cuddly as a pile of kittens, on the outside, they can come across angry, upset or even hostile.
This, needless to say, is not what you want if you want to be more approachable. If people think you’re spoiling for a fight or you’re in a pissy mood, they’re not going to want to say hi. Attraction can’t exist without comfort and safety after all. If you want more social success, you want to make sure that you’re giving off the right kind of vibe and sending the right message to others. If people look at you and think you’re one spilled beer away from becoming a human Vesuvius, they’re going to keep their distance, regardless of anything else.
How Do You Fix This?
These days, despite being more muscled and even more visibly tattooed than before, people find me much more approachable and easy to talk to. This is because I made a concerted effort to convey a much friendlier and welcoming aura… even if I look like the president of The Sons of Moria MC.
It all comes down to presentation and body language.
First and foremost, if you want to be more approachable and less off-putting, make sure your grooming and presentation is on point. Studies have found that part of what makes some guys creepier than others were matters of grooming and appearance — stained clothes, body odor, greasy and unkempt hair and so-on. Because of the problematic association of these qualities with poverty or mental health — and the attendant association with violence and unpredictability — people with poor grooming and hygiene make others uncomfortable. Despite the fact that people with mental health problems tend to be the victims of violence, rather than the perpetrators, people still find poor grooming to be a warning sign.
Plus there’s also the tactile aspects. Nobody wants to run their fingers through greasy and unkempt hair. Similarly, scent is emotionally powerful; our sense of smell is tied intimately with memory and attraction. If you smell bad, people are going to stay way.
However, body language plays a much bigger role. Part of how I avoid intimidating people is by adopting positive, friendly and open body language. That means relaxing your muscles, letting your shoulders drop a little and your arms hang freely by your side. You want to move with ease and slow fluidity, almost as though you’re moving to music, rather than with tight, short and jerky movements or walking like you’re searching for the Holy Grail. Think of the difference between a cat that’s happy to see you and one that’s scared. Those slower movements convey a sense of ease and relaxation that helps people feel more secure; short, quick movements signal tension and nerves. It can make you seem as though you’re tensed up and ready to explode; the more graceful movements look more confident and assured, as well as being calm and unhurried.
You also want to make sure you have a nice, warm smile — one that actually reaches your eyes — and to soften your gaze a little, like you’re looking at your favorite puppy. I bring up smiling so often because of how important it can be to building rapport with people. A warm smile signals friendliness and approachability. Without it, you can seem cold, unfriendly or even upset. None of these are helpful when you’re trying to meet new and fun people. Just as importantly though: smiling is contagious. It puts people at ease and in a better mood — one that makes them more receptive to making new friends and possibly more.
In fact, the contagious nature of a smile is important because…
Mistake #5: You Look Like You Don’t Want to Be There
So, I’m going to be blunt: the biggest and most common way guys make themselves less approachable is that they look like they’re having an awful time.
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen dudes out and about — at parties, at bars, at restaurants, at meet-ups, even at Starbucks — who look like they would rather be anywhere else.
Not coincidentally, those are also the same guys who complain about how hard it is to meet women and how awful their luck is.
The problem is that, if you want to meet people, you have to go where the people are… and they’re not in your apartment. That means that if you want to be social, you have to go out and be social. And while yes, online dating is an option, the truth is that you still need to develop your in-person social skills to meet folks off OKCupid and Tinder. Not only do those same skills translate to connecting with people online, but you’re gonna need to meet them in person eventually.
As I said earlier: moods are contagious and people are going to respond to the vibe and the energy that you give off. If your entire attitude and behavior is making folks say “dude, why are you even here?”, then all you’re doing is cutting yourself off at the knees.
It’s also important to remember that being fun is one of, if not the most attractive qualities a man can have. As a general rule, women are attracted to happy, fun men — they’re more emotionally intelligent, they’re more enjoyable to be around and they make better boyfriends over all. But if somebody’s first impression of you is “right, the guy in the corner doing his best impression of Bartleby The Scrivener,” you’re going to have to work pretty damn hard to bring them around.
Assuming that you can do that at all.
The hard truth is that there’s a reason why Eeyore isn’t a sex symbol; people who look like they’re having a bad time aren’t fun to be around. And while yes, being sad or dealing with depression doesn’t disqualify you from having relationships, it makes it a lot harder to connect with folks who don’t already know you. Just as importantly: when you’re trying to meet new people, strangers are going to have much less incentive to try to draw you out of your shell. They’d much rather hang out with folks who’re actually having a good time. Especially if it seems like you’re determined not to enjoy yourself.
How Do You Fix This?
The most obvious answer is “stop doing things you don’t enjoy, just to meet women.” A lot of people get hung up on the idea of meeting women at bars or clubs, despite the fact that they actively hate bars and clubs. They don’t like the noise, the smoke or the frenetic atmosphere, and they’re rarely compatible with the folks who do enjoy those things. Just as importantly, however, is that most people don’t meet their partners at the club. Even now, a plurality of folks meet partners and new friends through mutual friends or shared activities. This is why one of my first tips for folks who want to meet women is “do things you find enjoyable in a way that brings you in contact with other people.”
However, you can’t always find groups that line up with your passions, or that you’ll meet people who you’ll want to date or who will be able to introduce you to people you may want to date. This is why it’s a good idea to get out of your comfort zone and try things that are new and different. Expanding your horizons makes it that much easier to meet awesome people that you might never have come in contact with otherwise.
But even then, you want to be able to enjoy yourself and have a good time. If the only thing that’s going to dictate whether you enjoy yourself is how successful you are at meeting women, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. After all, you can do everything right and still not get a date or a phone number. If that’s going to retroactively ruin your evening, that’s going to make it next to impossible to have a good time. You’ll be constantly on guard for any possible mistake, weighing every interaction like it’s a matter of life or death.
This is why I recommend cultivating an outlook of curiosity and adventure, rather than focusing on the outcome. Part of what made it much easier for me to go out and meet people was that I took an attitude of “there is a story out there tonight, and I’m going to find it”. That story could be anything. The story could be making friends with a former Argentinian soap star and her boyfriend and being taken to a crazy hidden bar in LA’s Koreatown. It could be talking with somebody and discovering that they used to travel the world by working on cargo ships. It could be nearly getting shot by a Sex Clown. Or the story could be meeting an awesome woman and going back to her place to watch kitschy genre TV.
(All true stories, by the way.)
By taking an attitude of “going to find your story for the night”, you take the focus off of the outcome and put it more on enjoying the experience. Because you’re looking at this from the perspective of “what will the story be,” you put yourself in a mindset to try new and different things and to open yourself up to new possibilities. That means you’re priming yourself to do the strange, the unusual, the outré and the out of character. This, in a very real way, gives you permission to do things that you normally don’t enjoy, in part because you’re doing it for different reasons. Because you’re taking it all in the spirit of adventure, you’re putting yourself in a place where you’re motivated to have a good time.
And that sense of adventure and openness is contagious. It carries through in your behavior, in your body language, even in how you talk to people. You’re letting yourself be in the moment, rather than weighing every possible option and outcome or — worse — thinking about how much you don’t want to be there. And of course, that sense of fun comes through to others as well, which encourages them to have fun as well. Being the person who helps other folks have fun too makes you much more attractive to others and — crucially — more approachable.
And as a bonus: it means you’ll be the guy who has all the cool stories — and people will want to hear you tell them.