How to make friends at work

Most people spend 40 hours or more per week at their office. With such a significant chunk of time devoted to your workplace, it’s only natural to seek out friends to make that time more enjoyable. Breeding familiarity with your coworkers, enjoying fulfilling conversations, and having support during difficult phases in the workplace are things that any employee can appreciate.

Whether you’re new to your office or you’ve been there for years, it’s never too early or too late to start seeking out workplace friendships. If you’ve always wanted to know how to make friends at work, this guide will walk you through it. Use these tips to find some work friends who you can look forward to seeing in your office each day; it’s one of the best ways to make your workdays a little brighter.

Step one: Get to know your coworkers

If you don’t feel like you know anyone at your office very well, your first step will be getting better acquainted with your coworkers. That may mean you’ll have to step out of your comfort zone a bit, but in the long run, it will definitely be worth it.

Here are a few ways you can start to put yourself outside and get a little more face time with your coworkers:

  • Attend more work events: Do you typically turn down those invitations to happy hour? Are you always looking for a way to get out of corporate networking events? It’s time to start attending some of these functions and taking advantage of the opportunity to spend extra time with other employees.
  • Show up early or stay late: Are there any people at your office who like to come in a little early or stay a bit late? Try adjusting to their schedule. You might find that being one of the first arrivals to the office helps you get to know some of the early birds.
  • Become the go-to person: If you’re great with a certain software program or have a knack for fixing paper jams in the copier, don’t hesitate to let others know you’re willing to help. Offering your assistance will leave a great impression with others since it shows a generous, kind nature. Plus, you’ll get the chance to know some of your coworkers a little better if they ask for help.

Step two: Pick some potential friends

Think about which coworkers you already have something in common with. These people are most likely to become your close work friends, so try to strike up some conversations about your common interests, whether it’s a certain sports team, a hobby, or a favorite TV show. Though these topics certainly fall under the umbrella of small talk, it will be easier to talk about more personal topics once you’ve already connected on this level.

Besides common interests, you can also look for those who share a similar lifestyle with you. Are you single, divorced, or married? Are you an empty nester, or do you have young children at home? Do you reside in the suburbs, or are you living in the city? These things can also be great jumping-off points for conversations. It may also be easier to sustain the friendship in the long run if you already have a shared lifestyle.

Step three: Focus on positive interactions

While it’s OK to occasionally complain when conversing with coworkers, your best bet for making work friends is to keep things positive. You want any potential friends to associate your presence with a positive feeling. If you focus on things like being stressed out at work, they’ll associate you with negative feelings instead.

So, how do you keep things positive? Focus on good things happening in your life or the life of your new friend. For example, you could share your excitement about an upcoming vacation and ask if your coworker has any suggestions for your trip. Another option is to compliment him or her on a work accomplishment or a job well done on a particular project. Overall, strive to keep your conversations optimistic and hopeful.

Step four: Open up

Once you’ve started regularly talking to a new friend at work, consider opening up about slightly more personal topics. For many people, the easiest topic to start off with is their families or partners. You could tell your coworker about your sister who lives across the country or share your kids’ names and ages. Pets are another great topic that many people can relate to, so sharing a funny story about something that your dog did recently is likely to go over well.

See if your coworker reveals additional information about his or her relationships or family members in response to these stories and details. If so, that’s a good sign that your colleague is also interested in becoming work friends.

Step five: Take it outside

Now that you and your new friend know each other a little better, you can start asking her if she’d like to spend time together outside the office. That could be on small breaks during the workday, like accompanying you to the café down the street to grab a coffee or going out for a quick lunch. Many work friends don’t hang out beyond that, but if you and a coworker end up becoming quite close, you might eventually do other things in your free time, like go to a movie after work or meet up for dinner on a weekend.

Make sure your new friend doesn’t feel pressured to accept your invitations to spend time together outside of work. If you get a “no” at first, don’t be discouraged. Keep being friendly and positive around your new friend and try again in a few days.

Things to avoid when making work friends

Following the steps outlined above will hopefully earn you at least a new friend or two at work. If you’re not having much luck, however, you may want to consider whether any of your behavior at work might be off-putting to your potential work buddies. Here are a few things to avoid if you’re looking to make friends at work:

  • Being too pushy: When you have a different opinion or idea than a coworker, be mindful about how you tell your colleague. Are you pushing your ideas too hard without listening to the other side of the argument? Make sure you’re being respectful of your coworkers; don’t assume your ideas are always the best.
  • Crossing boundaries: Be wary of becoming friends with someone who is your superior or your subordinate. If you were to strike up a friendship, it might create some issues at work. For example, if you become friends with your boss, it may seem like she’s playing favorites when just the two of you go out to lunch together.
  • Avoiding office traditions: Maybe you hate office parties or you think that chipping in for a birthday gift for the boss is silly. These things might not mean anything to you, but opting out of all these traditions might make you seem like a loner who isn’t interested in getting to know your coworkers.
  • Excluding others: Don’t cause others to feel left out if you do make a friend at work. Constantly sharing inside jokes or whispering secrets to one another in front of others will hurt other coworkers’ feelings (and might even hurt your professional reputation). Instead, be the type of friends whom others enjoy being around, and you may be able to make even more friends at work.

If you’re ready to make some real friends at work, put these tips into action. Before you know it, you may be enjoying work lunches and happy hour drinks with your buddies.

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