Making friends is hard to do, especially when you’re immersed in a busy office. Everyone seems to be part of a little group, and you might feel it’s difficult to start up a conversation – it’s just so much easier to slink off to the kitchen and make a solitary cuppa.
So how do you break the ice and show colleagues that you have something to contribute too?
Be friendly yourself
As much as we want others to take notice of us, sometimes the best way to make friends is to take notice of others. As the granddaddy of self-help Dale Carnegie said:
“Talk to someone about themselves and they’ll listen for hours.”
Let’s say you have a colleague who’s keen on Game of Thrones or is obsessed with collecting vinyl. Ask them about their interests – maybe you know of an event or tidbit of information that is relevant. You don’t have to be super enthusiastic, just genuinely interested. Catch up with them another day and show that you remember what they had talked about, and maybe they’ll respond by asking you about your hobbies or interests.
Take part in work events
If you find it difficult to strike up a one-on-one conversation, try joining in a group activity. Sign up for an inter-office pub quiz night, for example (maybe you’re a dab hand at movie trivia) or a charity fundraising. That way you will play a part in a collective effort and won’t feel under pressure to shine out on your own.
Think about any talents you have that you could add to the effort. Or you could be more proactive, for example, and post on the company intranet about starting up a book group or model aircraft club (you could also have a cocktail club, but there’s to be no drinking and flying).
Share the happiness
A birthday cake taken into the office is always a good way to get people talking, but if you’re a newbie and don’t have cause for celebration, then try introducing yourself with a round of doughnuts, if only for those sitting closest to you.
Sharing food and conversation is a great way for people to start bonding. You may discover by chatting that there are people with similar interests sitting right next to you, or even colleagues who live in the same area as you do (and that’s your cue to share cool cafes and restaurants you’ve been too, perhaps suggesting an after-work visit when you’ve got to know people better).
Get to know people outside your department
When you go for a walk at lunchtime say hello to people that you would not normally meet in your own section, even if it’s just complimenting someone’s shoes as you pass in the corridor. A friendly comment on one day might turn into a conversation in the future.
It’s more a question of stopping by rather than putting yourself out. People will be pleased that you took the trouble to come across and may well choose to come to your desk one day. Who knows this could be the start of a beautiful friendship – especially if you tell them about the donuts.
If you want to have a really friendly office, start at the top. Let your boss know that friendship at work can improve people’s happiness and that more research suggests happier employees are more productive. Could management to pay for some office nights out?