For many people, making friends at work isn’t easy. It can be intimidating. But even a shy introvert can learn to become a good friend or buddy at work. Remember, more than 50% of a person’s lifetime is spent working, so it’s worth investing the time and effort to invest in friendships at work.
How do you go about it? Take a deep breath. Be the first to smile and say “hello”. That’s still the best icebreaker, specially a genuinely friendly smile. Soon you will be saying “hi” and “bye” to your co-workers and most will do the same. Another way to get that breakthrough when you don’t know anyone, is to ask questions. People really like talking about themselves, their lives, how they spend their time. Be a good listener. You can be sure they will return the favour and ask you questions about your life. Talk about your struggles, too. Shared experiences help to bring people together.
Be confident, specially in the presence of people you have never met before. When a person is nervous, it shows. Make eye contact with the person you are talking to. Unspoken dialogue says a lot. One advantage is that you can, with just expressive eyes, ‘talk’ to anyone, even the boss.
Find things you have in common with the colleague sitting right next to you. Reading, exercising, shopping, going to a movie. If you both like doing the same things a friendship will start building up. You’ll have a friend outside the office as well.
One thing we must warn against is participating in gossip. Stay away from it as it will do you no good in the future. This is not the way to make friends. If people are making disparaging remarks about others, usually not even true, they will sometime talk about you, too. Stay away from office politics, too. You will set a good example.
It is important to find the time to go to work events. There may be a lunch or get-together organised by your team or by the office management. Don’t skip it because you feel shy. Go there determined to make friends and enjoy yourself. And follow it up by asking at least one of your newfound friends to join you for lunch or a cup of coffee after work. Don’t let a rejection stand in your way. Not everyone will like you just as you don’t like everyone. Move on to someone else.
Another way to get a co-worker opening up to you is asking for help. Don’t pretend you know everything. If you need help with office systems or the way the technology works, ask. People will respect you for it. People will empathise: everyone needs a helping hand specially at first.
No one can resist an eager and willing worker. Volunteer to work after work if an emergency comes up. And do it with a smile. Even if you are just helping out with routine work, your effort will be noticed and someone may come along later and ask for your help with a bigger and better assignment.
Finally, remember the line from the Friends serial. “When it seems you’re always stuck in second gear …I’ll be there for you.” Everybody needs a friend. Be the friend who’s there in times of need and you’ll have created a bond. The secret of making friends in the office is, simply, putting others first and being there for them.