How to Know if People Think You're Unapproachable

April 4, 2018

A clip from Dorie Clark's LinkedIn Learning course, Learning to be Approachable.

How do you know if people think you're unapproachable?

Well, before we get into that, let’s answer two questions. First – does it matter if you are seen as approachable at work? And second, if you are seen as unapproachable, do you have to change your whole personality to be seen as approachable? 

The answers: yes and no, LinkedIn Learning author Dorie Clark said in her course on approachability.

Let’s take them one-by-one. What are the negatives of being seen as unapproachable?

There are two, Clark said. It’ll lead to a less collaborative, less fun career, as people will avoid you. And, if you are seen as unapproachable, you’ll be misunderstood more often.

Second question – if you are seen as unapproachable, do you have to change your whole personality to be seen as approachable? No, Clark said. Most of the time, a few small tweaks can make a big difference.

“What we're talking about is making yourself understood so other people can see the real you and get why you're valuable,” Clark said in her course. “Period.”

How to know if people think you're unapproachable

Okay, so the value of being seen as approachable is clear: more collaboration, better relationships and you’ll be better understood. So, how do you know if you are currently seen as unapproachable?

In her course, Clark said there are three ways to find out:

    1. Somebody tells you.

The most obvious way to find out you are unapproachable – but also the rarest. Few people will tell you to your face, unsolicited, that you are seen as unapproachable (particularly because you are unapproachable to them and that’s scary).

If you are so unapproachable people tell you that, well, you are probably really unapproachable. If this has happened to you, you should probably consider watching Clark’s course to learn how to become more approachable.

    2. People react to you in ways you don't expect.

Are you often sarcastic, but people think you are being serious? Or, are you just making a point, and people take it like a personal attack?

The reason for this is you might be seen as unapproachable. Because people see you that way, they haven’t formed the same bond they have with other colleagues, and therefore don’t understand the nuances of your personality.

“People are often awkward around strangers, but if you've worked with someone over time, in theory, you'll have built up a warmer relationship,” Clark said. “Unless there's been some obvious falling out, you might expect that they'd start to say 'hi' more or strike up conversations or nod and wave, that kind of thing. But, if they're staying away and you're just not sure why, it's possible you may be sending some kind of subconscious signal to them that you're too busy or not interested or like to keep to yourself.”

    3. Proactively seek feedback.

The first two signs mentioned are reactive. A better method is to be proactive, by soliciting feedback from close workplace friends on how approachable you are, Clark said.

“The key here is close and workplace,” Clark said. “Close because you need to ask people whom you have a trusting relationship with so they won't dodge or soft pedal you. You need someone who cares enough about you to be honest. And workplace because people often come across very differently at work versus in their home life, and you want to hear from people who see you in that context.”

The takeaway

Here’s the bigger point – soft skills have always mattered and, with the rise of AI, will matter more than ever moving forward. To effectively collaborate and run successful projects, you need to have consistent, honest dialogues with your colleagues.  

That means being approachable, so those relationships form naturally. And that doesn’t mean changing your personality – it just means making a few small tweaks to ensure that consistent, clear communication is the norm.

Want to be seen as approachable? Watch Clark’s full course today, Learning to be Approachable.

Other LinkedIn Learning courses you might be interested in are: