I’m having a hard time getting to know my co-workers. They all have known each other for a long time and it’s hard to feel included in casual conversations. How do I get to know them better? – Mona in Tuscaloosa, AL
Getting to know your co-workers follows the same path of forging any new relationship. You start with a foundation of worthy intent, establish an environment of mutual respect, build rapport, and then nurture the relationship. Even as we keep ourselves and others safe from COVID-19, making connections and creating lasting bonds are easily within our reach.
Worthy intent is demonstrating sincere interest, discovery, and active listening. Your focus is on the other person you are connecting with. Your non-verbal communication is critical as it relays your intention. When meeting in person or virtually, make eye contact, smile, nod, and be mindful of your posture. Lean in to the conversation by asking questions to find common interests and learn about your co-worker’s passions. Worthy intent is the bridge to a deeper connection.
Breaking the Ice
You may be thinking, this all sounds great, but how in the heck do I get started? Here’s the thing: You may feel like the “outsider,” but that’s a reflection of your own insecurities or projection of self-doubt. We all feel this way from time to time. What’s important is to pause, see it for what it is, and replace the negative thoughts with fresh opportunities.
Start by listening. Step in with a question such as “Can you tell me more?” or “How/When did you get started?” to learn about the other person. Follow up and invite your co-worker to share more about the topic or ask for their advice.
As an example, let’s say your co-worker is sharing a story about the day hike they took over the weekend. You could ask what was the most special memory they made during the hike, or what was the funniest thing that happened to them on the hike. Then follow up and ask them if they have taken other day hikes in the area, and which ones they would recommend. If you end up going on one of those day hikes, let your co-worker know you took their advice and went.
You can follow this approach on any topic or interest, even a simple request for a recommendation on take-out in the area. The key is to pick up on potential areas of common interest, demonstrate genuine curiosity, ask for advice, and show your respect by following the advice shared.
There are always a myriad of ways you can join in. Your new company or department could offer community outreach activities, clubs, or teams. While most of these will be virtual, they are an excellent way to connect on a personal level with your co-workers. Choose one of these activities you love or have an interest to explore. It’s an ideal setting to learn more about your co-workers and develop friendships.
Create a New Activity
If your organization has a physical or virtual bulletin board, post a flyer about a new activity; it can be a one-time or re-occurring event. Rachel had a great idea for a virtual after-work hour “meet the pets.” We’ve done something like this ourselves, and it’s so fun to meet one another’s pets. The virtual cocktail hours can be craft beer tastings, smoothie concoctions, or marvelous mocktails. The possibilities are endless. Think outside the box and choose something you enjoy. Make the it easy to participate and keep it light and fun. Not only will you be able to connect with your co-workers on a personal level, but you’ll be providing a needed social outlet.
When you join in or create a new activity, you lay the foundation for mutual respect and begin building rapport. When you focus on sincere interest, genuine curiosity, and worthy intent, you are nurturing your budding relationships. Put your energy, passion, and excitement into each new relationship. It will serve you well.
Lynn Whitbeck is the co-founder and President of Petite2Queen. She is focused on identifying and evaluating opportunities for women at work, helping them define their personal roadmap. She dedicates herself to delivering tools and insights, embracing visualization of the big picture, and identifying and implementing the minutiae of detail. Lynn aims to share lessons learned along her journey and enable positive uplift for women.