It’s easy to think that clocking in at work, finishing your to-do list, clocking out, and avoiding too many strong friendships at work is the best strategy to survive workplace drama.
However, by leaving relationships out of your workday, you’re actually causing more trouble for yourself.
That’s because recent research has discovered a fascinating fact:
Humans literally need friendships for survival.
If you doubt the importance of social experiences for survival – I’m looking at you, introverts – consider this: A recent study looked at the effects of isolation for thousands of individuals. Scientists working on this study discovered that isolation puts as much stress on your body as smoking, inactivity, or diabetes.
Psychologists have also found significant links between friendship and mental health, including:
Providing a support system to fight depression
Creating a means of validation of value, building confidence
Helping individuals keep a good perspective
Motivating individuals to have greater self-control, to break poor habits and reach goals
Below, I’ve gathered expert advice on how to go about building healthy relationships with coworkers – so you can have your happiest and healthiest workday.
One of my favorite quotes on friendship-building comes from an article by Andrea Bonior, Ph. D.:
“Clearing away the emotional debris of toxic relationships is imperative to make way for healthier ones.”
Maybe your eagerness to build any friendship makes it difficult to say “no” to the friendships that will be hurtful. Or maybe you already have toxic relationships that need to be released to make way for new friendships.
Whatever your situation, always remember: just as some food is healthy and some is not, some friendships are healthy and some are not. While befriending coworkers can be helpful, relationships will only improve your life if you find the right friendships.
Be willing to stick it out, be picky, and do some people-searching to minimize later conflict. In the long run, you’ll be grateful.
DEAL WITH CONFLICT THOUGHTFULLY
Unfortunately, no matter how picky you are in choosing your friends, you will eventually encounter conflict.
A recent Thrive Global article by Kim Forrester outlines the key steps to surviving conflict – and they each require careful mindfulness. Forrester writes,
“So many of our reactions and beliefs are deeply unconscious that it is inevitable we will sometimes fall prey to impulsive and instinctive desires to fight, hurt, lash out.”
When conflict arises with coworkers, it’s easy to write off the friendship, become bitter, and regress into social isolation. Not only is isolation harmful for your health, but hiding from conflict will also make a second attempt at friendship twice as difficult. We humans easily become captives of the fear of future conflict. Without working through conflict, we’ll struggle to reenter the social world.
Instead, it’s vital to practice mindfulness and empathy, keep your eyes on the bigger picture, and forgive others when they hurt you. Some hurt is simply caused by misunderstandings and miscommunication; other times, others’ actions result from baggage or stresses that don’t relate to the relationship directly.
Yes, sometimes a friendship is irreparable – but many times, good communication and openness to understanding can resolve conflict and preserve the good in a relationship.
If you’re wondering how to start repairing a relationship, begin with a clear idea of what happened in the conflict – in your eyes, as well as objectively.
Then, take your friend to coffee or dinner, and explain how it affected you.
Give them an opportunity to explain their side, and really listen.
If they aren’t open to explaining their view and understanding your side, they may not be a good long-term friend. If they are open to having a conversation to resolve the tension, you’ll come out of the situation with a better understanding of how each of you sees and interacts with the world.
KEEP IN TOUCH
Everyone gets busy and overwhelmed, forgets to text back, drops off the grid once in awhile. While it’s unfortunate, it will undoubtedly happen in your relationships now and then. However, it’s important to jump right back into your friendships as soon as you realize you’ve disappeared – to avoid losing them.
Jumping back into a friendship after a period of quiet can be intimidating. If you’re busy, it can also be challenging. How can you balance a major project, time with family, hobbies, day-to-day responsibilities, and a coworker relationship?
Don’t panic – research shows that you only need to get in touch with someone every two weeks to keep a friendship alive. If you’re swamped, even a simple text or a short visit to their desk on your way back from lunch can be enough. Be warned, this isn’t a long-term recommendation – you’ll want to spend more time catching up with your friend once your to-do list is less full – but checking in briefly every two weeks is a scientifically-proven way for staying in touch even when life is full.
“There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.”
Thomas Aquinas spoke those words 800 years ago, and today, we know them to be more true than he could have imagined.
Yes, friendships are encouraging and uplifting; but they’re also necessary for our mental health, productivity, and longevity.
Don’t spend eight hours each day in a community where you have no relationships. While friendships take work, the benefits to yourself and to your friends – they are more than worth the effort.