The Art of Approachability
The Art of Approachability
The Art of Approachability

Let me tell you a fascinating story about approachability. Dr. Wendy Levinson, a researcher, listened to lots of talks between doctors and patients. She discovered something intriguing: Half of the doctors had never been sued, while the rest had been sued twice. Surprisingly, their skills and the info they shared were similar. Curious to find out why? Stay tuned for the reveal!

Take relationships seriously 

There is no escaping it. Relationships are central to everything we do. We have all heard the adage: it’s not what you know, but who you know. It is just as true once you are employed as when you are pursuing a job. That is because success is not just about getting the job done at work; it is also based on how well you cultivate your relationships with your colleagues.

It’s amazing how our connections shape who we are and what we do. Anyone who thinks work relationships aren’t essential is mistaken. Studies show many senior managers fail not due to incompetence but because they struggle to build positive connections with their teams.

Think about someone who left your workplace—chances are, their departure was tied to difficulties in dealing with others.

Take the movie “Dodgeball” as an example. The underdog team at Average Joe’s, despite being physically fit, triumphs over the more robust Globo-Gym team. Why? Because they’re a tight-knit group with strong relationships, unlike their competitors.

So, what’s your take on work friendships and professional relationships? How do these views affect your performance, both solo and in teams? If success is your aim, how should you approach workplace relationships? Are there specific relationships you should prioritize?

Strengthening work connections can significantly boost your career. Imagine if your professional growth was hindered because you weren’t seen as approachable—how would that make you feel?

Stop being a loner

Being approachable means that you need to become more sociable and less of a loner.

Spotting a loner is pretty straightforward. They often keep to themselves, engrossed in their own world. While they might be dedicated workers, this distance from others can isolate them, spark suspicion, and create a negative impression among their peers.

This kind of segregation can lead to failure and missed opportunities, just like what happened to American poet Emily Dickinson. She was not able to enjoy well-deserved kudos for her work because she was an extreme introvert who in later years seldom greeted guests or even left her room. As a result of this reclusiveness, thousands of her poems were only found and published after her death – leading to posthumous success and fame.

  • Why do you think some people prefer working on their own?
  • Have you ever worked somewhat separately from others? If so, what effect do you think this kind of isolation had on you and your work?
  • And what effect could it have had on your colleagues?

Overcome Shyness

Being approachable also requires that you overcome shyness.

It’s common for certain situations to trigger shyness. For many, it’s the fear of how others perceive us that leads to clammy hands and a dry throat. This discomfort often makes less outgoing folks take a backseat while louder individuals steal the show.

This can be a real setback at work. Instead of staying in the shadows, here are two simple steps to tackle shyness:

  1. Learn from confident people and emulate their actions.
  2. Strike up conversations with strangers in public places—like the gym, on a bus, or at shops. You might be surprised how receptive people can be when given a chance.

Surprisingly, the charismatic actor Tom Hanks was once extremely shy. Despite a tough childhood and struggles with shyness, he transformed into one of Hollywood’s most successful stars.

If you overcome shyness, you could gain more confidence and be more assertive in various situations. Think about someone you know who’s naturally outgoing—what can you learn from them? Over the next two weeks, try stepping out of your comfort zone in social settings. Additionally, consider activities outside of work that allow you to meet new people.

Selective Approachability

Of course, some groups may be harder to approach than others.

Being the life of the party with friends but fading into the background during an executive meeting might mean you’re experiencing selective approachability, something many people face. Factors like race, gender, background, style, or how well you know the group can affect your confidence and willingness to engage in conversations.

The Art of Approachability
The Art of Approachability

Take Clark Kent as a prime example of selective approachability.

It’s common to feel like Kent around certain co-workers but transform into Superman in other settings. The good news? You already have the formula for engagement; you just need to apply it in less familiar situations. People are essentially alike, so the ease you feel with certain groups can be mirrored in others.

Think about the groups where you feel comfortable being approachable. What makes those interactions smooth? Then, consider the groups where you feel less at ease. Try applying the same principles of approachability that work well with your comfortable group to these situations. Over time, you might find it easier to engage and feel more at ease around those you’re less comfortable with.

So, why were some doctors in researcher Dr Wendy Levinson’s studies getting sued by their patients while others were not?

Absolutely! The doctors who avoided lawsuits weren’t necessarily smarter or better—they were just more approachable. They spent a bit more time with patients, started conversations by explaining the check-up, actively listened, and even showed humor. Being approachable was key in their interactions and made a significant difference.

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