Welcome to this
issue of "Dr. T's Timely Tips" by Dr. Tony Alessandra. Please send your feedback
No one who
wants to improve their relationships or gain influence with others would
describe herself as "unapproachable." Yet sometimes we hear: 'I'm sticking to my
guns no matter what." Or, "Don't come to me with a problem if you don't have a
solution." Or, "I'm only interested in what works." The attitude behind those
kinds of statements is: Don't bother me unless it's worth my time and
corresponds to what I already believe. Not exactly conducive to collaboration!
Being outright unapproachable is one thing. If you make it known you really
don't want people coming around, you'll get what you ask for. But you may think
that doesn't apply to you, yet you could be putting out "unapproachable"
messages in more subtle ways. You could always be so busy that anyone who comes
to you feels they're not getting your full attention. Co-workers and employees
may then perceive you as being swamped with too much work, so that they'll bring
only the most important items to your attention. This may result in your knowing
less about what's happening than if you had made yourself more approachable.
Another subtle "unapproachable" style comes from people who seem to live from
crisis to crisis. If you know that every time you engage Mary in a conversation,
you'll hear about the latest problem or tragedy in her life, you'll probably
How about people who don't take the time to have an acceptable level of personal
appearance? They might have dirty hair or clothes that don't fit them well.
These folks often find themselves cut off from social discourse.
Another way to make people want to avoid you is if you talk too much. I'll steer
clear of you if I know that every time I say "hi" I'll be subjected to at least
a five minute monologue.
So there are various ways to establish yourself as unapproachable. The most
common is to set up a lot of conditions about what kinds of things you're
willing to entertain and how they should be presented to you. Another way to do
it is to be so preoccupied with your own needs that anyone approaching you
either gets short shrift or gets a full dose of your problems. A third way is
just to make yourself so physically unappealing that no one wants to be around
you. And another surefire turnoff is to talk too much, especially about
The antidotes to these problems should be clear. You need to cultivate a style
that says "open" not "closed." You need to give your full attention to the other
person when they're approaching you with their needs. All of this behavior
adaptation takes conscious effort. You can't change old patterns in a day. But
you can change. You might have to do something uncharacteristic like reaching
out and asking someone how she's doing, or what's on her mind.