The average person will spend over 90,000 hours at work in their lifetime. That is approximately one third of a person’s lifespan. By the transitive property, that means you are also spending one third of your lifetime with your coworkers. Thus, it is important to examine what kind of relationship you are fostering with your coworkers. Is it the kind of relationship founded on small talk, platitudes, and remarks about the weather? Or is it the kind of relationship built on mutual respect, open communication, and vulnerability? If it is the former ––and if you would rather spend your precious life cultivating authentic connections that matter–– try implementing these tips for developing meaningful relationships with coworkers.
Being yourself is the cornerstone of all meaningful relationships. Making friends under a persona will only leave you feeling lonelier than before once the facade comes down. Thus, it is best to be honest and authentic from the start–– even from the very first interview. Hays Recruiting Experts Worldwide notes, “If you aren’t yourself [in an interview], then the interviewer won’t get a true idea of whether you are a good cultural fit for the team and company or not... You should think of the company culture as the personality of the company. You wouldn’t choose to spend a large portion of your time with a personality that you clashed with, so why would you risk working for a company which is the wrong cultural fit for you?” In other words, being yourself early on will set yourself up for long-term success within a company.
In Mike Robbins’ Ted Talk on authenticity, he claims that vulnerability is one of the key ingredients to authenticity. Brene Brown, an expert and Ted Talk speaker on vulnerability, likens vulnerability to “emotional exposure.” That is to say that you must be willing to share a part of yourself to forge connections with others. This does not necessarily mean unloading your deepest, darkest secrets on your desk neighbor in the middle of the day. It simply means putting yourself out there, despite the risk of rejection.
Carl Jung, the founder of analytic psychology, once said, “Everyone you meet knows something you don’t know but need to know. Learn from them.” In order to figure out what others know, you have to ask! Therefore, ask people about their passions, their interests, and their greatest lessons. The result will not only be a deeper understanding of the subject matter but also of the other person.
Active listening is both the hardest and easiest thing to do. In a conversation, many of us listen with the intent to respond, when we should be listening with the intent to understand. According to Mind Tools, a good practice to promote active listening is to pay attention, nod occasionally, and repeat the ideas back to the speaker to ensure that you are understanding them correctly. Removing your fixation on responding will lead to better communication.
A shared interest is often at the core of every relationship. Find out what you and your coworkers have in common, and then explore it together. You can take it one step further by acting on those interests, rather than just talking about them. For example, if you find that you and your coworkers both enjoy reading, start a book club!
Because developing meaningful relationships with coworkers can improve your overall well-being, the positive effects will most likely bleed into other areas of your life–– your productivity, your familial relationships, your company culture, etc. Thus, even if it initially feels uncomfortable, try these strategies to promote more authentic connections in the workplace.
To see more tips on building a productive workplace post-Covid, check out this blog.