If you’ve just joined a coworking space, congratulations! You’ve taken an important first step in the direction of finding more community in your life.
Building new friendships and social connections takes time, though, and does not always come easily. (Social anxiety, which may or may not entail a diagnosed mental health disorder, is very common.) If you sometimes feel awkward in interpersonal interactions, these five steps to finding community in a coworking space may come in handy.
Take your work to the kitchen and hang out near the coffee station. Much like in a home, the kitchen in a coworking space is usually a people magnet. If they’re not grabbing a cup of coffee, they’re waiting for their lunch in the microwave. Brief down times like these are natural opportunities to socialize. If your coworking space has seating in or around the kitchen area, consider setting up shop there. In between emails and work calls, you may find yourself chatting with someone new.
Introduce yourself to new faces and take an interest in what others do. One of the perks of coworking is that, often, everyone there is doing a different job for a different employer, and you can almost count on new members showing up with some level of regularity. Each fresh encounter is a chance to learn something new.
Even in a coworking space dedicated more narrowly to IT personnel, you’re probably not all clones of one another. You might be intrigued to discover a new skill that could help you in your role or a different approach to an intractable challenge. In the process, you’ll also be networking and developing relationships.
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Break the ice by asking for a small favor or recommendation. This can be hard to do because it requires a bit of vulnerability. In fact, some people will only ask for help if they’re in a real emergency. Don’t wait until your car battery is dead and you’re stranded in the parking lot after dark. Instead, practice small, contextually appropriate asks. If you left your laptop power cord at home, ask another member if you can borrow theirs. If you need to print an article but the printer is acting wonky, ask someone for help. Maybe you’re interested in going somewhere new for lunch. Ask around for recommendations. You may soon end up chatting.
Of course, nobody wants to develop a reputation in their coworking space for being a needy person always asking for favors. Don’t worry: If you’re someone who struggles with even small displays of vulnerability, there’s a very good chance that you’re not in any real danger of mutating into that annoying person anytime soon.
Attend the social events hosted by your coworking space. Most coworking spaces host social events, whether Friday happy hours, Toastmaster meetings, writing workshops, fundraisers, or other offerings. Tune in to the emails announcing these events and add them to your calendar so that you remember to attend. Some of these events may allow you to bring a guest; others may not. Here, too, shaking hands and engaging in small talk with a couple new people may take some guts. Reward yourself with a healthy dose of self-affirmation.
If you establish a connection, keep the conversation going. In other words, be intentional about fostering the relationship. This can be as simple as exchanging numbers, suggesting lunch sometime soon, or inviting the person to join you on your afternoon walk. If you notice they haven’t come to the coworking space for a while, shoot them a text letting them know you’ve missed them and asking them how they are.
Be patient. Building community takes time. These five steps can help you get there, bit by bit, one small but meaningful achievement at a time.