The first time you set foot in an office is a strange day.
You get there a half-hour early “just in case.” You sit in your car in the parking lot and try to quell whatever the hell is going on in your stomach. And then you walk inside.
And you shake hands with your new boss and your new coworkers, and you sit down in your new chair at your new desk, and you do one full swivel to take in the new view, and you wonder about who put that cup of pens there and that pile of sticky notes and that stapler and that roll of tape, and you realize that this is who you are now—you work here.
In that moment, you’re surrounded by colleagues. Peers. Fellow co-laborers. But as the days and weeks pass, it’s possible to turn some of your co-workers into work friends and dare we say it some of your work friends into actual friends.
Here’s how to make a friend at work.
Step 1: Talk about something that isn’t work
You already know that Steve from Marketing is working on the next season’s campaign. You’ve passed him in the breakroom countless times, commenting on the weather, the busy schedule, the blah blah blah.
But it’s time to break out of this conversational bubble. Ask him a new question this time. Such as…
Did you watch the game last night? (what game? Doesn’t matter. Any game. Frankly, a game of mah jong would suffice).
What’d you do this weekend? (This is really just textbook small talk).
What show are you watching right now? (We all love entertainment. Hopefully, Steve is as big of a Survivor fan as you are).
Now, you’re both focused on something other than the office. And once you’ve broken the non-work conversational ice, it’s time to take it one step further...
Step 2: Create an inside joke.
If you can, building an inside joke off of that initial non-work related conversation is a surefire way to take this work friendship to the next level.
This gives you a conversational well you can keep drawing on whenever you see your soon-to-be best friend. Whether it’s the game, the show, the shared weekend hobby, whatever common ground you’ve found can start to create a bond. And it’s best if that bond is funny.
Now, it might be easier to start an inside joke that’s related to work. Take some bets on who is going to be the first person in your weekly meeting to use some jargon (boil the ocean, anyone?). Laugh at how difficult it is to choose a casual Friday outfit. Mimic the annoying noises the printer makes when it’s about to crash.
You know, work stuff. Anything that makes you laugh.
Psychologist Sara Algoe writes, “For people who are laughing together, shared laughter signals that they see the world in the same way, and it momentarily boosts their sense of connection…Perceived similarity ends up being an important part of the story of relationships.” Comedy is science, y’all.
Share a laugh. Then, share a meal.
Step 3: Go to lunch together
Breakfast is for best friends and lovers. Dinner is for dates. But lunch is the friend zone of meals.
Asking someone to go to lunch is the safest way to share a meal together and get some quality time outside the office. If you’re really brave, offer to drive. Giving someone a peek into the inside of your car is like a friendship olive branch.
Brene Brown always talks about daring to be vulnerable. Well, letting a work friend see your back seat that’s full of clothes, kids toys, old cheerios, and whatever else you’ve got back there is certainly one way to lower your mask and pull back the curtain.
Plus, you can learn a lot about someone by the type of food they like. Open the floor to suggestions and see what sort of lunch they’d prefer. Do they have a local Thai place they want to try? How great. Is Chipotle their old faithful meal? Same. Or are they looking for something healthy? Boring, but okay.
Let them decide, even if it means trying something new. Friendships start with one person taking a risk. And after you’ve shared a meal, there’s one final risk to take.
Step 4: Invite them over to your home
This is it. The final boss of becoming friends with someone at work.
Colleagues don’t know what each other’s kitchens look like. Friends do.
Whether it’s on a Saturday or for a drink after work, bringing someone into your home is the final barrier you have to break down to become true friends. It’s scary, we know. The home is a sacred place.
But by inviting your colleagues into your home, you’re opening yourself up to a true and authentic friendship. And think about how much more fun work will be once you’ve got a friend in the office.
We couldn’t think of anything better.