So, you think you’re approachable huh?

I did too.

I’m barely 5’1 and have never weighed enough for the Blood Bank to sign me up as a donor, so who in the world would I ever intimidate?

More people than I ever imagined. Much as I hate it, I know I still do, and so I have to constantly work on my approachability, helping people warm up to me, so they’ll talk to me.

An Intimidation Factor. We all have one.

I was oblivious to my own intimidation factor up until a wise (and brave!) mentor showed me the truth about my perceived demeanor. It was pretty painful, but not as painful as the realization I hadn’t self-corrected soon enough.

You have an intimidation factor too.

If you are thought of as a manager, someone of authority, “with power” or “in charge” in any way whatsoever, especially in the workplace, I’ll bet you are way more intimidating than you think you are, no matter how warm, nice and gracious you might try to be. A certain degree of that intimidation factor comes with the organizational territory, and what that means, is that people do not consider you as approachable as you are hoping they do. Probably not even close to it.

Now, before you get too smug, and say, “I’m just your normal Joe, nobody reports to me,” guess again. Got seniority? Tenure? More experience than a new hire? Or are you the new hire with a degree that didn’t exist for the old guard? Leading a team, a committee or task force? Are you an older sibling? A parent? A local with the lei of the land, and advantageous sense of place? I bet if I dig deep enough, finding out more about you and the people you interact with, that I will find a person you intimidate.

I’ll find a handful of them. It just happens.

If you are unapproachable,
people are not telling you what you need to know.

Not all of it.

Now there are bosses who will quietly admit that they like having a slight mystique surrounding them, forcing subordinates to use middle managers more than they otherwise would. I don’t buy it: ‘Mystique’ is a beguiling word for their intimidation factor that is similar to spraying a skunk with perfume, and they are justifying their lack of approachability with a flimsy excuse.

Besides, if you are unapproachable with one group of people, it spreads like a bad virus to everyone else too, and the ones brave enough to talk to you will be on their guard instead of being open and completely engaging.

They will not be curious about you either. They won’t seek you out, and ask you for your opinion, hoping to hear more of your mana‘o (your thoughts, beliefs and convictions).

Is that what you really want?

No, I didn’t think so. No one likes not knowing, and feeling they are forced to second guess underlying messages in what they are told (or subversively allowed to discover.) No one likes being the one that no one else will turn to.

I prefer to think that everything said can be beautiful.

For you to listen, and to hear better,
someone else has to do the talking.

My strategy for working on eliminating my own intimidation factor has been The Daily 5 Minutes ®, something I had told you about in this posting: Two Gifts: Values and Conversation. The reason is pretty simple and straight-forward: The Daily 5 Minutes is about listening completely, and for me to listen, someone else has to talk. Here is an excerpt shared in that post to save you the click:

The Daily 5 Minutes ® is one way that “talking story grows up and really, truly comes to the workplace with us.”

The D5M practice is a new conversation

The number one objection I will get from people hearing about The Daily 5 Minutes ® for the first time, and hearing that it is a daily practice they will learn, is “But Rosa, I talk to my people every day. We talk story enough.”

No you don’t. I guarantee you, you don’t. Granted, most of us talk TO others, AT others, and even FOR others all the time, but we don’t talk WITH others enough. When those times come up where we know we really need to have a heart to heart with another person, we stutter, stammer, stall, or skip the conversation altogether, hoping it will just go away. And surprise, surprise, it doesn’t.

The Daily 5 Minutes ® is a new conversation in which we learn how to listen all over again so that we can communicate better. It can get our island way of talking story to be better than it ever has been before, because over time it vastly improves the circle of comfort and aloha we have for each other. I hope you will take the time to read about it.

If you choose not to use The Daily 5 Minutes ® as your strategy with grooming better approachability, come up with something else, aimed at improving the circle of comfort which exists between you and the other people you work with. Trust me on this: It will be the best gift you give yourself.

Having more people talk to you is not a burden; it lifts burdens. You’ll see.

My mana‘o [The Backstory of this posting]
Each Tuesday I write a leadership posting for Say “Alaka‘i” at The Honolulu Advertiser. The edition here on Talking Story is revised with internally directed links, and I can take a few more editorial liberties.


The Daily 5 Minutes is very much on my mind these days due to this Alaka‘i initiative:
The Daily 5 Minutes: An exciting alpha test! Yesterday I wrote, “I hereby declare this last week of October 2009 dedicated to The Daily 5 Minutes.” and I said I would be working on a new D5M Resource Page for you. Click on the D5M graphic above and you will see it, still a work in progress, but with a good start.


Take 5 Listening ChallengeOur 1st Ruzuku alpha is now complete! Read about our results, and get up to date with the news about our next two challenges:
The D5M Ruzuku Report (and 2 New Challenges!)

The next one will begin on Monday, November 30th and remains free of charge only during this period of alpha testing. More about this next challenge:
Become a Better Listener with these 5 Skills

Photo Credits: Shy Kids of Quake by Edge of Space on Flickr and SAY SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL… by LondonInFlames on Flickr


  1. […] When you introduce the Daily 5 Minutes practice to your students, they have a role to play as the receivers of your gift: They have to agree to do the talking. I know how difficult that can be at times, getting them to do so. However once they get started with the D5M, they warm up to talking to you in an amazing way, for a circle of comfort is created between you. […]