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8 Ways to Make Friends at Work

Technology has changed the rules, but the underlying truths remain the same.


Making friends at work (or anywhere else) is easy. All you need do is adapt the timeless wisdom of "How to Win Friends and Influence People" to our technologically-sophisticated workplace.  Here's my take on this:

1. Smile, with your body and mind.  Putting a smile on your face draws people to you, but only if it's genuine. Smile on the inside first, then let that feeling express itself on your face. (More on this: Daily Habits to Make You Happier)  BTW, smiling works even if the other person can't see your face (just ask anyone who cold calls); so take heed when you're online.

2. Make the other person feel important.  Technology drives globalization, which can make regular folk feel small.  Since friendship is something you give to (rather than get from) people, there's no better gift than treating people as if they're they are more important that you are.  (Which they are, if you're their friend.)

3. Be genuinely curious.  People love to talk about themselves. Your curiosity gives them the permission to do so without wondering if they're being boring.  This is true regardless of the medium, so asking about (and caring about) what's going on in people's lives is a good way to make them feel good.

4. Don't criticize, condemn, or complain.   Nobody wants to be around a "Debbie downer" so don't let technology magnify your negative emotions.  Toxic emotions and words poison a friendship before it takes root, and that's especially true when you can spread those emotions at light speed.

5. Be yourself.  It's tempting to pretend you can use social media, email and texting to present a more attractive persona to the world.  However, with technology, people figure it out who you really are more quickly than ever. So you might as well be yourself from the start.  What have you got to lose?

6. When you're wrong, admit it quickly.  If you make a mistake, admit it.  Don't double down and make yourself twice the fool.  Few character traits are more attractive than the ability to to admit error and apologize when you're wrong.

7. Assume the other person means well. Remember that everybody is the hero of his or her own story.  Giving people the benefit of the doubt lets them be that hero in your eyes, and in theirs.

8. Use words that the other person understands. Using fancy words, in person or online, doesn't impress anybody.  Quite the contrary, it creates distance.  First see the world from the other person's viewpoint and then talk and write from their perspective, not yours.

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IMAGE: eschipul/Flickr
Last updated: Nov 14, 2013

GEOFFREY JAMES did a lot of business stuff and wrote a slew of articles and books. Now he writes this column. Preorder his new book, Business Without the Bullsh*t, by May 12 and get an exclusive bonus chapter and a signed bookplate.

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