It’s tough when you’re the new person in the office. Trust me, I know. I’ve been there. Here are seven simple ways that to make friends at work even when you’re an introvert…
I started in a new job a few months ago and, to be really honest with you, it’s been a little bit challenging. More challenging than I thought it would be, and that’s been for a number of reasons.
First of all, there was the work side of it. It was a side-step into a new industry for me and that meant a LOT of new stuff to learn. New programs, new terminology, new ways of working. Et cetera. Going from an industry I knew like the back my hand to one where I knew pretty much absolutely nothing was pretty difficult. At times I felt totally weighed down by new information. But of course it wasn’t just the work aspect was tricky. Being the New Person can be tough. Especially when you’re an introvert.
I’d forgotten about that. I was at my old job for a long time and I had gotten to know my colleagues over a number of years. I had well-established friendships; lovely like-minded work wives that I would get 11am and 3pm coffee with every day, that I’d grab lunch with a couple of times a week, and have a gossipy conversations with in the toilets if no one else was in there.
There were people to support me or troubleshoot with or just have a good old moan to when a shitty email landed in my inbox. I suppose from the outside it perhaps look hyper cliquey. Maybe it was in some ways, but to me they were simply a much needed support network. There’s something so valuable in having people that you can speak in shorthand to, who know exactly what you’re talking about without having to go into the minutiae of it. That’s what my friends at work were to me.
Trying to make friends as an introvert… or not
I’m writing this off the back of a work night out at my new job that wasn’t great. It’s not that anyone was horrible or I made a fool of myself or anything like that. It was more just that I just felt on the periphery of everything all night; that while I was chatting and joining in with conversations, it was on quite a superficial level.
I could see the people who were like me at my old job – they had their friends that they bought a bottle wine with at the bar or snuck out for a cigarette with when they were sufficiently drunk enough not to care anymore, and those people weren’t me. Of course they weren’t, I’d only been there five minutes. I felt like I was trying, I was trying to make an effort, to connect, but it just wasn’t happening. Put it like this: there wasn’t that eureka moment when, around about three wines deep, I was able to shriek, ‘Oh my god – me too…’ because I’d found my spiritual soulmate.
Friendship groups and cliques are always going to be already established in an office environment, and that’s tough. However, I’ve realised if you do you want to break into them, you have to keep hustling. You have to push through the awkward stage where you don’t really know anyone and you’re not really clicking with anyone and nothing is going right… until it does.
I left that job with a handful of lovely friends that I still keep in touch with. In fact, I was just at a virtual birthday party for one of them at the weekend, on Zoom of course, where we gossiped, played bingo and sang karaoke. I even ended up with eyebrows drawn on in black eyeliner, courtesy of one of the tasks where you had to give yourself a 30-second makeover. It think was only then that I was like, huh, I did it. I actually made friends at this place.
So, to quote that oft used blogger statement: your vibe will attract your tribe. It might take a bit longer than you think to make friends as an introvert, but you’ll get there in the end.
How to make friends as an introvert…
- One of the best ways to make friends as an introvert at work is to ask people for help. Why? Well it’s a great opener to a wider conversation. There’s always that person in the office who is known for being great with spreadsheets or a pro on Photoshop, so ask them if they can give you a quick run through. They’re likely to be more than happy to help you out, and not only will it help you to do better at your job but it also gives you a chance to get to know them better and ask them about themselves. Go do it already.
- Say yes to opportunities. Is your manager looking for volunteers for something? Say yes. Is there a design sprint with people from different teams? Do it. Do they want to send you to a conference in your third week? Go. The latter one happened to me. As much as I was a little hesitant about spending so much time with people I barely knew, it actually ended up being a really good thing. We had a six-hour train journey each way, so there was plenty of time to chat! I felt like I got to find things out about them that I never would have from sitting in the office. Plus, as they worked in a different department to me it also helped professionally; I learned exactly what their jobs roles were and how we could work together going forward. We even wrote a (work) blog post about it afterwards, complete with in-jokes.
- Get to know people one on one. The one thing I know about making friends as an introvert is that I’m way better in smaller group. Way better! If everyone in the office is having a chat about something that they’ve watched on TV the night before I’m much less likely to pipe up or get my voice heard amongst everyone else’s. I tend to leave that for the extroverts. However, the nature of some of the projects I work on is that they usually require smaller groups; sometimes only one or two people. This is great for me, because it enables me to get to know people one-on-one in a more relaxed environment, without feeling the pressure to yell my opinion across the office. That’s just not me.
- Utilise the coffee area. People are pretty ritualistic when it comes to coffee. You’ll probably find that you end up seeing the same people at the same time over and over again. Don’t just stand there silently stirring your coffee and staring into space, make the effort. Ask them how their week is going, what they’re working on, find out what they’re doing at the weekend, etc.
- Accept that you’re not going to be best friends with everyone. Some people just want to come to work, do their job and go home and they’re not really that fussed about getting to know their colleagues. That’s OK. There are also the people you’ll quickly realise that you don’t have that much in common with, and that’s also fine too. Life is short. Move on and find your tribe.
- Go on the nights out. The temptation is not to, especially if you’re not super close with anyone and you hate making awkward small talk. But friendships comes from shared experiences. If you want to make friends as an introvert you will have to do the socialising thing sometimes. Even if you don’t know people that well now, you’re laying the foundations and getting your face out there. You’ll also be part of the ‘debrief’ on Monday morning and can join the conversations about remember when so-and-so did this rather than just looking blank.
- If you’re having a bit of a tough time and suffering grass is greener syndrome, the you need to remind yourself why you left your old job in the first place. In my case, it was because I felt there wasn’t anywhere for me to go professionally; I felt stifled and stagnant. So, although the newness of a new job can be tricky, in other ways it’s also everything I wanted. I wanted to be challenged, didn’t I? I wanted to meet new people, and I wanted to learn and grow as a person. The awkward middle part is difficult, yes, but the funny thing is it’s usually worth it.