Coworker friendships are an important aspect of your work life–people perform better when they feel connected to their coworkers. It’s not uncommon, however, for people to struggle to meet new friends at work, either due to shyness or the worry that forming friendships with coworkers might be perceived as unprofessional. People who have difficulty meeting new friends often find themselves isolated by coworkers, which only makes learning how to make friends at work more difficult and stressful.
Fortunately, the same rules for meeting new friends in social settings apply in the workforce. Here’s how to make friends at work.
Take the First Step
Introduce yourself to your new coworkers when you have opportunity. If you meet someone new in the breakroom, at the water cooler, or before a meeting, strike up a conversation. Ask them what they like about the company, which department they work in, and similar questions. After the initial introduction, start asking slightly more personal questions, such as what they have planned for the weekend. Take it slow, and let the friendship grow organically.
Learn People’s Names
People appreciate it when you take the time to learn their names, and are more likely to become friends as a result. When you’re first introduced, use their name a few times in conversation to help set it in your memory. Greeting people by name after a single meeting shows you pay attention to others.
Look for Mutual Interests
Water cooler conversations and coffee breaks offer plenty of opportunities to discover mutual interests with co-workers. Asking if a coworker saw a recent sporting event or watched the previous night’s episode of a popular television show can reveal interests you have in common, which you can build on to form a friendship.
Eat Lunch Together
Sharing food together is a deeply social event. Instead of eating lunch alone at your desk, find out where other people eat and join them. Company lunch rooms, outdoor areas, and food courts are possibilities.
Positive people are easier to work with than those who complain. Look for the positives in difficult work situations and work towards solutions. Coworkers will see you as someone who sees opportunities rather than setbacks–a positive trait in anyone when making new friends and a helpful skill you can apply to conflict resolutions.
Offer to Help
An offer to help can be as simple as holding a door open for a coworker whose hands are full, or as involved as offering to temporarily take on a coworker’s duties while he’s sick. Friendships develop when people benefit from each other’s company. Being helpful signals you’d be a good friend.
Watch Your Body Language
People are sensitive to body language–so sensitive, in fact, that body language accounts for 55 percent of all communication. Tone of voice makes up and additional 38 percent, meaning only 7 percent of communication is verbal. Being able to control your own body language and read that of others is a sign of high emotional intelligence.
Watch your tone of voice and body language when making new friends. Crossed arms, avoiding eye contact, excessive hand gestures, and frowning all make you less approachable. Instead, keep your posture relaxed, maintain appropriate levels of eye contact (avoid staring), keep your hands at your sides and widen your stance slightly. When the other person talks, lean in slightly without invading personal space, and nod and smile when appropriate.
Share, but Don’t Overshare
Sharing personal details is important when building a new friendship. The difficulty is knowing how much to share, especially in a workplace. As a general rule, share fun details about yourself and your life, while avoiding details that have the potential to cause drama or make the other person uncomfortable. Friends or not, the workplace requires a level of professionalism, especially when dealing with manager / employee relationships.
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Knowing how to make friends at work means knowing how to be yourself. Forced friendships rarely last. Be helpful, stay positive, and let people get to know you–you’ll be making new friends before you know it.