Making friends and work connections can be challenging if you're shy, introverted, or socially awkward. It may seem easier to be nonsocial and simply focus on getting your work done. There are many benefits, however, to developing friendships with coworkers, including reduced stress, elevated mood, and improved chances of achieving career goals. Here are three tips for forcing yourself out of your comfort zone, getting friendly with your teammates, and making beneficial work connections.
First, make a goal of initiating interactions every day. One way to start making work connections is to develop the daily habit of initiating contact with other people. It's surprisingly easy to be nonsocial; fear of rejection keeps many people from making the first move to start a conversation, especially if you don't appear to be friendly or open to making new connections. Take it upon yourself to reach out to others. There are quite a few conversation starters you can use, for example, you can compliment the other person or remark upon a shared interest. If you notice someone reading, for example, you can ask for book recommendations.
Another tip for making connections is to participate in social functions. Almost every workplace provides opportunities for employees to socialize with each other. These opportunities can be something as formal as a biweekly luncheon designed to let employees from different departments meet one another, or an informal gathering of administrative employees at a local pub for drinks after work. Take advantage of these opportunities to make work connections. You should also accept invitations from coworkers to parties and other social events. While you don't have to participate in every function that comes your way, try to get involved with at least one per month.
Inviting a coworker to lunch is another way to make friends and work connections. If parties seem too overwhelming for you, then engage with your coworkers one-on-one by inviting someone to go to lunch or have coffee with you. This is an excellent way to get to know the people you're sharing an office with and make work connections that can benefit you personally and professionally. Don't worry if you're not sure what to talk about during the outing. Use the occasion to explore mutual interests or to learn about something new. Ask open-ended questions that require more than a yes-or-no answer. Until you get to know the person better, however, it's best to stick to safe topics and avoid gossiping or rumor mongering.
Having friends and allies at work can make the workplace more fun and interesting; it can also open doors to new opportunities. Although making friends requires an investment of time and effort, it's well worth the trouble because you'll make great work connections that will enrich your life in many ways.
(Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net)
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