“People will marginalize you if you lack approachability.”
Steve Hutchinson

Dr. Steve Hutchinson is a dynamic speaker and an accomplished author of several books. From the single parent struggling to make ends meet, to the millionaire entrepreneur, Steve has inspired people to breakthrough unpleasant circumstances and discover their purpose and passion in life.

The founder of MarriageNow and two churches, Steve has helped people change the trajectory of their lives by changing mindsets and inspiring people to live a life of purpose, integrity and excellence. Steve encourages and equips people to be leaders in the home, marketplace, and church.

With over two decades in pastoral ministry, Steve travels nationally and internationally teaching on subjects like Marriage, Parenting, and Leadership. Steve has coached hundreds of couples as they navigated through marital turmoil, and thus avoided the divorce court. Steve speaks at churches, corporate meetings, school chapels, colleges, and is no stranger to radio and television.

Despite holding three degrees (Doctorate, Master’s and Bachelor’s), Steve is committed to life-long learning. Steve has also served as a coach and teacher in both public and private schools.

Steve shares not only his success stories, but is transparent of his struggles as a husband, father, and leader; he is candidate on how he overcame depression and burnout. With a blend of scholarship and humor, Steve delivers an inspirational message of hope that brings healing to the hurting, and motivation for the faint of heart. Having a passion to see people “Win in Life,” Steve connects with young and mature audiences alike.

Steve enjoys traveling, sports, and the great outdoors. Steve and his amazing wife Jane, along with their four incredible children, reside in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia.

How Approachable Are You?

The following article is an excerpt from Steve and Jane Hutchinson’s awarding winning book on marriage, Me Tarzan, You Jane. To schedule Steve for a marriage conference, singles or parenting conference, or for weekend services, please refer to the contact information below:

(330) 351-3459  •  steve@marriagenow.net  •  facebook.com/stevehutchinsonusa

How Approachable Are You?I remember a time Jane and I were at a restaurant and our waitress was, well…to put it mildly, annoying. Now, we believe in tipping well even when people may not deserve it. We also believe in treating those who wait on you with kindness and respect. But this time this woman was testing my attitude and generosity. We had to repeat everything. If we didn’t have any utensils, we’d have to ask her three times. If we needed napkins, she was bugged and needed several reminders. Each time we had a simple request she made it known that she was annoyed. Her body language was clear: “You annoy me and I wish you’d leave already.” Clearly this waitress wasn’t there to serve us or give credence to that establishment. She was put off and put out by everything. You could say she wasn’t the approachable type.

I am wondering how many times we come across this way towards our mate? Our words and attitudes can destroy the very thing we are trying to build…our marriage!

We all can come across with a rotten attitude that is aloof and put out. I know we all have our moments, but some people actually live in sourville.

Your ability to connect with people and stay connected with your spouse will be directly determined on how approachable you are. People will marginalize you if you lack approachability. Your spouse will disconnect from you if s/he cannot trust you, if you are moody, or come across with a chip on your shoulder. If people cannot trust the consistency of your moods and attitudes they simply will not trust you.

I have learned there are three primary modes people operate in. Examine yourself and see what mode you use when relating with your partner.

Approach Mode

In approach mode we are connecting with someone while giving positive energy. When we say someone is approachable, we mean they are easy to connect with, engaging, open to new ideas and information, friendly, personable, and genuinely interested. It means we seek to connect by being open, available, cooperative, and accessible. In approach mode we disarm our partner and present a safe, caring atmosphere that fosters trust and intimacy.

Avoid Mode

When we endeavor to avoid someone, we give little of ourselves. We are trite and keep interaction to a minimal. To avoid means to give no energy at all. In this mode you are about as interesting as a trigonometry test. In avoidance mode you are trying to get away from someone. You may distract yourself from the source of your problem through over-working, over-entertaining yourself, or over-activity. We justify our self from being there for our mate because we rationalize something more “important” to do. This is often unconscious behavior we demonstrate in order to “numb out” the pain, hurt and disappointment from another person. Avoidance means we are unwilling to engage, participate or cooperate. We show no interest and are cutting the other person off. Whether you mean to or not, your partner’s avoidance will have a negative effect on your marriage.

Attack Mode

In attack mode we are intentionally hurtful and out to destroy…yes, destroy. When we attack our spouse (often out of hurt or guilt) we devalue, harm, incapacitate, and seek to instill shame and fear. In this mode, the goal is to put our partner in his or her place. There is an air of superiority which seeks to destroy the other person’s worth, confidence and uniqueness. In attack mode we are angry, judgmental, critical, defensive, bitter, and out to punish. This mode is very destructive to a marriage and communicates…

  • “I am better than you.”
  • “I am more knowledgeable than you.”
  • “I am more talented than you.”
  • “I am more original and creative than you.”
  • “I am not interested in your perspective.”
  • “My needs and interests are more important than yours.”

You can be in attack mode and not even raise your voice. As a matter of fact, you can be in attack mode and not even say a word; it may be a sour, disrespectful attitude. Our body language can say:

  • “You are bugging me and annoying to me.”
  • “Leave me alone; I don’t like you.”
  • “I am not here for you so please don’t bother me.”

As a general rule, being approachable allows for connection and reduces fear and shame. Avoid and attack mode increase fear and shame. Even your dog or cat can know what mode you’re in.

Questions to Ask Yourself

How do you respond to the following activities?

  • Budgeting and spending
  • Household responsibilities
  • Giving and receiving non-sexual affection
  • Showing an ongoing interest in my partner
  • Being a good sex partner
  • Making my partner’s needs a priority
  • Being romantic
  • Being interested in my partner’s interests, hobbies, work
  • Creating an emotionally safe environment in our relationship
  • Regulating my negative thoughts and emotions
  • Being faithful and trustworthy
  • Being a good friend to my partner
  • Being enjoyable to live with
  • Being an active, supportive member of the our family
  • Making communication easy

Let me ask you this: “In times of stress, temptation, frustration, or confusion, who do you go to?” You will always go to the one who is approachable and non-judgmental. I think that’s why kids love to spend time with their grandparents so much. Grandma and Grandpa, generally speaking, are approachable and relaxed and aren’t so easily flustered like younger couples. I want my partner to feel safe and secure around me. I want my spouse to talk to me about anything without worrying that I am going to bring feelings of fear or shame. I want to be approachable, how about you?

Improving Your Approachability

Master self-awareness.

Know yourself and your tendencies. Examine your body language, words, tone of voice, and overall attitude. I knew someone who really was a nice guy but he looked like he was mad all of the time and people tended to avoid him. Listen to what others are saying and give someone permission to critique you and speak into your life without getting offended.

Proactively demonstrate to others that you really care.

Here are some practical things you can do:

  • Eye contact
  • Ask a question
  • Show genuine interest
  • Mirror back what is said
  • Call people back in a timely manner
  • Slow down and seek connection not just impression
  • Don’t be in such a hurry
  • Stick around and talk to people

The person in all of history I respect the most is Jesus of Nazareth. He had to be the most approachable person on earth. Even nasty sinners felt comfortable coming to him. He was so approachable that even children felt at ease around Him. He loved the unlovely. He touched the untouchable. And he comforted the hurting. He reached out to the poor and outcasts, not just the rich and famous. He has changed the world as we know it because of his approachability.

God encourages us to “…come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need,” (Hebrews 4:16). In other words, God is saying to us that we never have to fear approaching him, he is always in approach mode to his bride, the church. He is more interested in showing grace than judgment. God is making it easy for us to approach him no matter what!

In approach mode you make it easier for your partner to connect with you. Why not start today?

Connecting Points for Couples…

  1. How can you be more approachable towards your partner?
  2. What areas seem to put you in avoid or attack mode?
  3. How can you be more conscious and aware of hurtful behaviors and attitudes?
  4. When do you feel most approachable?

Will you give your spouse permission to speak truthfully but gracefully in your life without becoming offended?