Combat LONELINESS AT WORK in 3 Easy Steps

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Loneliness is perceived social isolation. There's no rule that says you mustn't be friends with your coworkers or you must feel lonely at work. In this lesson, I teach you how to build rapport with your colleagues and make friends with the people at work. If you're feeling lonely, take these steps to combat loneliness!

I think we all know by now the toxic effects of loneliness. More specifically, we know that loneliness is not the act of being alone. Someone can feel lonely in a crowded room. Rather, loneliness is perceived social isolation.

Today I’m sharing 3 steps you can take to combat loneliness at work. What’s great is that you can also apply these strategies to your social lives in addition to your professional lives.

Let’s get into it.

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The nature of the loneliness we’re addressing in this lesson is perceived social isolation. For this reason the overarching goal is to deepen connections with coworkers, create meaningful friendships, and think more critically about the importance of quality over quantity.

With that in mind, let’s begin with the first step.

(1) Go Beyond the Surface

Building rapport requires us to move beyond the surface-level talk. Imagine it’s Monday morning and you find yourself in the office. Steer clear of asking a humdrum banal question of “how was your weekend” yielding no more than one-worded response of “great” or “okay.” Or when you’re on Slack or in a video call don’t just ask them how they are. We want to go beyond the superficial break-room chatter. The reason for that is because we want to build rapport. The only way to do that is to dive deeper. This means that we’re showing up to the conversation as our authentic selves -- in a work setting this can be your authentic professional self or authentic casual self in more relaxed environments. Listening actively to what they are saying and how they are saying it. Pay attention to their words but also their tone of voice and body language. Getting them to talk about something that’s important to them is a great way for them to open up. It gives them the opportunity to be listened to. And it gives you the opportunity to discover common ground.

(2) Get To Know Them Better

Step two is to get to know your colleagues better by sharing a meal or coffee with them. This will allow you to elaborate on step one. This time you’ll be doing some more listening and talking as well. Begin to understand their personality by asking questions pertaining to their interests, aspirations, career trajectory and so forth. Any subject you broach or question you ask, be ready to talk about from your perspective as well. Conversation is a two way street. It’s not all give or all take, it’s a nice mix of both. Asking simple questions like “what makes them happy?” or “what do they like doing for fun” can be easy ways to get them to talk about their hobbies. Doing this over lunch or afternoon coffee is great because it breaks up the work day and enables you to converse in a more relaxed setting (in other words, you’re not frantically asking questions while checking in about a high-stakes project or during an important meeting).

(3) Create A Community

The last and final step to combat perceived loneliness at work is to create some kind of community around a shared interest. This could be anything from book club, to golfing on weekends, to early morning runs in Central Park, to being on the same after work sports team. Don’t worry too much about the activity but aim for something that you can do with one or more people in a setting that is more relaxed and fun.  This step is important because it gives you a reason to interact outside of a formal work setting. For example, going on a hike where both of you might bring friends or spouses allows a friendship to develop. And the hope is that even the people you and they bring along will get along well so that a community begins to form! Sports teams are great for this because you’re already in a team. Or if you prefer a knitting club or some other type of club then create that because the idea is to get people together with overlapping interests.

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Colleagues are people with whom you spend a lot of time with, working together on a shared career objective. There’s no rule that says you can’t be friends with the people you work with. And there’s no reason why you should feel the need to subject yourself to loneliness at work. By incorporating these three steps you’ll be creating rapport, enriching your social skills, developing friendships, and nurturing your connections to the people around you.

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