Good friends are hard to come by. We have a lot of acquiantances—co-workers, neighbors—but often say nothing more than ‘hi’ if we accidentally run into each other in the corridor or street.
However, people need close, fulfilling relationships to really achieve work-life balance (and when we’re feeling discouraged a long-distance phone call can’t replace a tight good hug, a kind face, or someone saying: ‘Don’t worry about that. I’ll help right now.’
The good news is that the support system could be just a door away. We can form closer bonds with neighbors and form deeper relationships with casual acquaintances we meet through work, church or recreational activities. Here are some tips on forging that bond.
1. Slow down and start a conversation.
Grab every opportunity to engage in small talk with your neighbors and co-workers. Don’t just ask about the weather, though—people like to know when you’re interested in them! You can say, ‘Hey, that’s a cute dog! How long have you had him?’ or ask a co-worker bout their kids (everyone loves talking about their kids!).
2. Lend a helping hand.
You don’t have to inconvenience yourself to be nice. You can offer a neighbor extra tomatoes from your garden, or if you’re already on the way to the store, say: ‘I’m running to get some milk and eggs. You need anything?’
You can also offer co-workers helpful information: ‘Hey, my husband and I tried the new restaurant down the street. It’s really great—the chicken wings were awesome!’
However, avoid offering unsolicited advice on a potentially sensitive topic, like: ‘Your lawn looks like it’s dying. If I were you…’
3. Welcome new people.
Remember how it felt like when you just moved in? Your kids probably missed their friends, and you were overwhelmed with the new changes (plus the task of unpacking!). Go over and say hi. They’ll probably appreciate some information on the area (like when the fresh produce arrives at the supermarket, or the best shops in town). You can bring over a tray of freshly baked cookies, or extend an open invitation to have coffee once they’ve settled down.
You can do the same for new hires at the office. Show them where the cafeteria is, or just invite them to the next office bowling session.
4. Break out of your clique.
You may already have a group of friends at work or on your street, but try to expand your network. Invite a co-worker to lunch. Chat with the mom you run into at the playground every week. Who knows, you may have more in common than you realize!
5. Treat people with respect and consideration.
If you borrow a neighbor’s tools, clean them before returning. If your kids accidentally broke something, replace it. If your pets made a mess, clean it up.
This goes for the office too. Little things let your co-workers know that you respect their time and appreciate the good work they do. For example, go out of our way to email your thanks to a someone who helped you a lot in your last project.
6. Make time for friends, old and new.
Promise yourself to spend a total of three hours a week making new friends and reconnecting with old ones. You can spread out this time (like three one-hour lunches or coffee dates with different people) or do it all in one go, like inviting neighbors over for a Sunday potluck.
7. Organize fun activities.
Pressed for time? Combine a ‘practical’ goal with opportunities to bond. For example, you can organize a neighborhood rummage sale or item swap. Who doesn’t want to get rid of the clutter in the garage? You can put up a Book Club in the office and trade books you’ve already read. There are so many possibilities: an evening jogging group, a weekly Bible or prayer meeting, or regular playdates with neighbors whose kids are the same age as yours.