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Ask The Coach pt 3: How to be approachable
What’s a single woman to do?
You want to remain open and be approachable yet you can’t help but put walls up.
I had a client, I’ll dub Mary out of respect for privacy, reach out to me to ask that question. “I want to be in a relationship, but every time a guy talks to me, no matter what he says, I get defensive.”
Man, can I relate. I remember there was a period where I wanted to fling daggers at any guy who tried to “chat me up”. Not exactly the right kind of attitude for me to adopt, given the fact that I wanted to find a romantic partner.
With this in mind, we set about coaching her through this feeling. After exploring with her for a while, it became apparent that she had trouble trusting, and was deeply uncomfortable with being vulnerable.
She also was suffering from self-esteem issues – in her heart, she considers herself a bit of a rebel and would often dismiss herself as “too weird” and therefore “unlovable”. She was an introvert, she has spiritual beliefs that are different than most, she is a vegan. These were among her top values yet she was judging herself harshly and her lack of self-acceptance made her defensive. Yet she really wanted to be able to let her guard down, so that she could enjoy conversations with guys.
So we wound up co-creating a multi-step homework program, to help her experiment with “being approachable” in general — and not just with men she was hoping to date or with men who wanted to date her.
With her permission, I’m sharing some key points with you here.
Before we go further, I should note that these homework steps were undertaken one step at a time, not all at once. We also devoted a full session to “debriefing” each of her action steps and her experiences, so she could integrate her learning in a concrete way. When we’re attempting to change our patterns and beliefs and we’re allowing ourselves to get support from a life coach, the process is much easier. The transformation tends to stick.
I also feel that I should commend her. It is VERY RARE to find a person so committed to self-acceptance that they would embrace this rather exhaustive homework protocol. It speaks volumes about her desire to truly find a healthy, fulfilling relationship – with herself and with others – and I am 110% confident that very soon she will find the love of her life. Here’s to you, Mary.
So here we go.
Exercise #1: Be true to yourself: Sound familiar? If you took my 5 Essential Principles webinar, you probably recognize this as #1. Be true to yourself and proud of your unique qualities.
From our narrow view point, we think that we’re the odd man out while everyone else fits into society comfortably and easily. The truth is that everyone is different! So when you accept your unique qualities, and celebrate them, and kick shame to the curb, you’ll embody confidence. Remember: people feel most at ease around someone who is comfortable with their “oddities”; it allows them to be quirky themselves!
In Mary’s instance, she began to focus on one particular attribute (her deep need for seclusion) that she always judged as wrong so that she could her relationship with it. When she craved solitude, instead of beating herself up over it, she began to celebrate what seclusion gave her.
This of course is an ongoing process, but I know from experience, once she fully reclaims and celebrates being an “introvert”, she will move into a place of undeniable power. It sounds easy, yet in truth, she has judged her introversion so harshly for so long, that it’s still a work in progress.
Exercise #2: Approach others: This assignment parallels two other essential principles of successful dating: Be The Architect of Your Life (AKA Be the Chooser – you are responsible for your outcomes) and Take Risks.
If you really want to be more approachable, you need to be able to approach others; the two go hand in hand.
Mary agreed to start engaging with a variety of people in a variety of places where she felt comfortable, such as the organic market in her town. She would start by focusing on small talk, nothing serious, and without any attachment to the outcomes.
Challenging work for an introvert, huh? Surprisingly she found it to be easier than she originally thought – mainly because the people who frequented the store are very health conscious, as she is. It helps to start with people who are like-minded in some respect.
Exercise #3: Smile more & relax your body language: This is a good one if you are shy. Studies show that smiling can boost your confidence; at the very least, it will make you seem more confident, therefore, giving the impression you are approachable. (Fake it ‘till ya make it.)
Mary agreed to not force it however; she always made sure her smile was either warm or fun. She also vowed to pay attention to her body cues, to focus on relaxing, to make friendly eye contact when she was comfortable, and to keep her arms uncrossed when talking with people she didn’t know. She also noticed that focusing on smiling naturally made her feel happier and more pleasant.
Exercise #4: Take an interest in others: She decided to find out what matters to the people that she meets, as well as to those people already in her life. Whenever possible and appropriate, she decided to ask them questions, to observe and get to know them.
The key to successful interpersonal relationships is to listen more than you talk – a powerful attribute that introverts tend to possess in spades, as she discovered via her exploration of the gifts of introversion. Couple listening skills with curiosity skills and you are made in the shade.
Exercise #5: Engage in “Drive By” compliments: Mary discovered it’s a surprising, and incredibly charming, way of creating a connection. The trick is to say something uniquely and genuinely nice as you start to walk away. If you really want to connect, follow the compliment up with a question. You will be surprised at the friends you make. (Remember not to always focus on physical beauty.)
Exercise #6: Respect people’s point of view: An approachable person is someone who is open to new ideas. Therefore, while engaged in conversation, if an opposing opinion presents itself, remain curious.
Instead of telling someone he or she wrong, Mary set about to try to understand his or her perspective, and find something right in what was said. Be courageous to voice your dissent, but assume he or she has a valid point.
Mary discovered she has excellent listening skills and is naturally curious, so she was able to put aside her own ego’s opinions, to be able to find the gold in what the other person was saying.
This is another key skill to having successful interpersonal relationships — the ability to avoid insisting that you are always right.
Are you ready to tear down that wall?
What about you? Have you built your own version of the Berlin wall around your heart? These tips are guaranteed to help … just remember to first do some inner work into what’s preventing you from being so open and approachable.
And remember to give it time – there is NO MAGIC BULLET.
Be persistent, too – keep treating others as though they are approachable and they will treat you the same. It may take time, but keep at it.
Have fun and don’t let insecurities stop you approaching others or bring you down. If it helps, engage with those insecurities to bring them out into the open – you’ll have a much better chance at eliminating them this way. (What you resist, persists.)
Also remember that everyone has their bad days so don’t be discouraged by any failed attempt or if you find yourself rebuffed.
Not sure what’s keeping you stuck? Or perhaps you just need some reinforcement as you try to change your behavior? If so, I can help. Email me here .