11 Socially Intelligent Ways to Make Friends at Work

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Lorelei Yang718
Wonky consultant with a passion for words
July 15, 2024 at 8:51PM UTC
When you're starting a new job, there are a million things on your mind — how to get to the new office, managing any changes to your schedule as a result of the job change, what everyone's names are, where the restrooms are and more. With everything going on, making new friends at the office may feel like a low priority, if it even ranks at all. However, this is the wrong way to think about it. Making friends at work is an important part of office life. If you're the new kid, it can feel daunting to make friends with your new coworkers. If you already have a full social life, it may also feel like it isn't worth it to do so. Here's why it's well worth the effort to socialize at work — an how to turn coworkers into true friends. 

Why should you make friends at work?

Research shows that having friends at work benefits one's career and physical and mental health. Having work friends ensures that you'll have confidants in your industry who will understand your professional life in a way that non-work friends and family may not. It also means that you'll have someone to talk to during your workday and help you destress when confronted by workplace triggers.
If you've struggled to make new friends as an adult — a common phenomenon for Americans in particular, given how much time we spend working — getting to know people at the office can widen your social circle and help improve your overall social life.

11 ways to make friends at work.

Making friends at work can be intimidating, but a few strategies can help you get closer to your new coworkers quickly. 

1. Ask about their lives.

People like to feel that others are interested in their lives. Asking about and then remembering little details of your coworkers' lives (like the number of dogs they own, the names of their kids and any hobbies they may have) is a good way to express interest in them as individuals.

2. Refer back to previous conversations.

Related to the above, occasionally reference previous conversations when talking to new coworkers. For example, if someone mentioned being interested in football and their team played over the weekend, it would be nice to ask on Monday if they watched the game.

3. Reciprocate your coworkers' sharing by offering information about yourself.

When your coworkers share information about themselves with you, you should also reciprocate by sharing information about yourself. For a workplace friendship to blossom, both parties need to feel comfortable being themselves. This isn't an invitation to overshare (as a general rule, avoid overly detailed descriptions of your personal life or political views), but it will be difficult to make friends with your coworkers if you never disclose anything about yourself with them.

4. Invite them to join you for lunch.

Everyone has to eat, and eating together is often a good way for coworkers to socialize with each other. Even if your office has a culture of eating lunch at each person's desk, you'll still need to step out to pick up food. When you're getting ready to head out, ask if anyone wants to join you. Chatting on the way to and back from a nearby lunch spot is a good start to striking up a new friendship.

5. Share news they might be interested in.

One of my personal favorite ways to connect with new people, be they coworkers or otherwise, is to send news that might be of interest to them when I read it myself. So, for example, if you know a coworker is passionate about a certain TV show and there's news about it, you could email this to them. This strategy often leads to interesting conversations, since you'll have a common topic to discuss.

6. Connect on social media.

Adding each other on social media (e.g. Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat) is another good way to make friends with a coworker. Once you've shared your social media, you're giving each other access to your lives outside the office.

7. Consult them for advice and give them the opportunity to be there for you in low-stakes ways.

In any relationship, mutually giving and receiving help is one of the best ways to make and keep friends. When it comes to coworkers, asking for their advice or a small favor (such as proofreading your work product) is a good way to show that you value their opinion. This is a great first step toward becoming friends.

8. Take them out for coffee.

Ask a coworker to get a cup of coffee — drinks on you. Odds are, they'll offer to get you back next time — which creates an instant second coffee run together. Choosing to cover your coworker's coffee is also a friendly gesture that tells them you're generous and giving, which is something everyone can appreciate in a friend.

9. Suggest after-work drinks or dinner as a group.

An out of office happy hour or dinner is a good way for coworkers to bond since it creates an opportunity for them to chat about non-work interests and get to know each other on a more human level.

10. Join a company interest group.

Many large companies have interest groups, such as movie clubs or intramural sports teams, for their employees. If any of your new employer's groups fit your interests, joining them is a great way to get to know new coworkers. It's also a good way to meet colleagues outside of your immediate team.

11. Be friendly and helpful.

Everyone likes being friends with people who are upbeat and positive. Bringing a positive attitude to the office every day and offering help to your coworkers when you can provide it is a good way to establish yourself as someone people will want to have a relationship with.

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Lorelei Yang is a New York-based consultant and freelance writer/researcher. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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