I used to sit in my cubicle for around 8 hours a day. On a normal day, I’d talk to my boss and maybe one other co-worker. Even then, I’d probably only spend a good 20 minutes a day socializing.
This was killing me. Humans are a social species and are not meant to spend long hours alone. In prison they punish people by sending them to solitary confinement. Isolation will drive us crazy.
It’s weird to think that I was surrounded by people and yet I’d never talked to most of them. I didn’t even know that many people’s names.
I had to do something. I decided to talk to as many people as I could every day. It is hard at first. You really have to go out of your way to do it. Most people are exactly the same as you and I, they don’t talk to others. They don’t even realize that it’s driving them insane.
It’s amazing how isolation makes people feel terrible. I think this is a huge reason that cubicle jobs are slowly killing us. We don’t talk to others. We are surrounded by people that we barely know and rarely talk to. It is even worse if we don’t have a lot of friends and a social life outside of work. We can go for days on end with minimal social interaction.
My plan now is to talk to everyone. Chat with a co-worker for five minutes on your way back to your desk. Say hi to everyone you see in the hallways. Talk to anybody you run into in the break room. Make small talk with the barista. Say high to your bus driver. Learn the names of the janitors and security guards.
Reasons to talk to everyone:
You’ll make more friends in the office – The more people you know the better. Most of the time life is just a big popularity contest. When it comes time for a promotion, a better view of the window or even an invite to a group lunch, the talkative guy/girl will be the one who they think of.
You’ll learn more about your co-workers – And possibly find that you have a lot in common. You might find out that you and your co-worker both love to play basketball, but haven’t played in years. This could develop into a weekly one on one game.
You’ll feel all around happier – We are social creatures. We feel better when we talk to others.
You’ll spend time away from the cube – The cube is a cage, stay out of it as long as possible every day.
This isn’t the easiest thing to do though. A lot of us are stuck in our ways and very shy around others. I know I was.
Some easy ways to get started:
Ask questions – If you see someone wearing a new shirt, ask them about it. If you know Steve in the next cube has two kids who play soccer, ask them about it. If you know someone is going on vacation, ask them about it. This is the easiest way to start a conversation and keep it going.
Remember that people like to talk about themselves. If you listen and ask them questions, they’ll tell you more than you ever needed to know. Most people are just dying to tell someone about the things going on in their lives. Read The Art of Conversation: How to avoid conversational narcissism .
Ask for advice – Ask for help or an opinion on a work related matter. Most people are willing to help you out and happy to give advice.
Talk about the weather – Yes I know it’s cliché, but there’s a reason for that. People love talking about the weather. Especially if you live in a place where it changes often.
Talk about sports – Cliché again, but it works.
The big thing is to just initiate conversation with others. Most people are dying to talk about something, they just need someone to show some interest.
Any other ideas on how to be more social at work?