You Are Safe with Me (Approachability)

Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Philippians 4:5

Research has demonstrated that there are common attributes evident in people who are effective and successful in the workplace. These “success factors” are demonstrated by believers and nonbelievers alike. And while these characteristics on their own may be of some value, as believers we need to take into account the very clear words of Jesus when he said, “without me, you can do nothing.” A success factor may be great characteristic to have but, like everything, if not used in line with God’s direction, it may work against us. So, let’s consider what it might be like to work from the heart of God

Take Approachability, for example. Leaders, including business managers, executives, and consultants, start out in a proverbial pit these days.  There has been so much in the media about corruption, greed and deception at the highest levels of government, business, and the church that a general cloud of distrust and skepticism hovers over all leaders in all environments today.  Leaders are simply presumed guilty by virtue of position until they prove themselves to be innocent/trustworthy. 

Those leaders who actually deserve trust now need to take intentional actions to “open the door” that will allow others to discover that they really are “good guys.”  It may not be fair to be judged so unfairly, but nevertheless, this is today’s leadership reality. And this is where approachability comes in.  It’s the characteristic that makes others feel comfortable enough to participate in a relationship-building process. But what does that look like in behavioral terms? Quite simply—approachability results from an others-first, service orientation. It isn’t a superficial thing and can’t be produced with actions that don’t come from the heart.

Jesus provides a great role model for approachability. We see him noticing people that others ignored and engaging them in respectful conversation. He was willing to interrupt his plans in order to listen and respond to someone with a need or question. He showed up at social gatherings, in the workplace, in the homes of friends, and in public with the same openness and calm demeanor no matter what else was going on around him.  Don’t you get the sense that He also gave His complete attention to the ones with whom He interacted?  We read that He even insisted that children be allowed to come to Him, that beggars be heard and that outcasts be drawn in…with eye contact, physical touch, careful observation and personal engagement.  His first gift to most was acceptance and interest, listening and a caring, freeing response.  No wonder people were attracted to Him! No wonder the people others considered insignificant weren’t afraid to approach Him despite His fame and reputation. 

This can be our guide.  We can demonstrate approachability by intending to serve others and give to them first. Let that intention set the tone for all your interactions.  Pay attention to everyone around you and draw in the quiet ones, the forgotten ones and the hesitant ones. When you sincerely care about leading from a place of service, the word will get out and all the rumors about you being arrogant, selfish, standoffish and untrustworthy will melt away.  Be the first to reach out and be the best at listening and trust will follow.  It’s worth the effort to lay this foundation.

How will you know if you are demonstrating this success factor? You will be someone who:

  • is a good listener—genuinely interested in understanding others
  • builds rapport well because each person is viewed as a gift from God sent to you
  • is easy to approach and talk to—open body language and warm smile
  • spends the extra effort to put others at ease
  • is intentionally warm, pleasant, and gracious (whether this feels natural or not!)
  • is sensitive to and patient with the interpersonal anxieties of others. Listens for Holy Spirit insight to guide interactions.

The Secret: Ask for the Holy Spirit’s insight about the people around you.  As others feel your open heart towards them, and see that you are not pushing your agenda or rendering judgments, they will risk approaching you. Be as safe for them to interact with as they would be with Jesus. Remember, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others…” Mark 10:45  Start there and watch how others will be attracted to you.