The Transition From Work Friend to Real Life Friend

by Cailey Henderson-Dahlstrom         

            I recently altered my life completely by getting married and moving to Fort Worth, somewhere I had only visited a few times before packing my bags. I came here with the comfort of knowing a few people who went to TCU, but after they graduated and moved to other cities, I was faced with the dilemma of having to make new friends as an adult.

            I am convinced that television has ruined a lot of people’s experience with this. We grow up watching Friends or How I Met Your Mother and expect to have this unspoken, open door policy with a large group of twenty-somethings that we are all equally close to. This doesn’t happen in real life; not only because if you leave your door unlocked like that, your TV will get stolen, but also because maintaining friendships as adults is much harder when you have realistic factors such as jobs, children, and dating.

            On top of our expectations of how it’s supposed to be, we’re met with the huge disappointment of how it actually is. Moving to an entirely new city knowing only my husband forced me to outsource my friends. I scoured the internet for advice and concluded that I will never be friends with someone who does fitness classes for fun, so my one and only hope of making friends is transitioning that one “work friend” into a “real friend.” Here are some practical steps that I personally took to do so.

1.     Find Your Person

Maybe you already have this person, maybe you don’t. For me it was the person I was spending the most time with, so I had the most opportunities to get to know her. Maybe for you there is someone that you’d like to get to know more, but you don’t necessarily get to do so in the workplace, or it’s someone that you just kind of have that “friend-crush” feelings towards. No matter what it is, find one person to ease your way into the friend arena.

2.     Find Out What They Are Interested In

Despite what some may say, everyone’s favorite thing to talk about is themselves. Ask them about what they like: what’s their favorite sport? Do they have hobbies? Do they have pets? Then, when you find out what their “thing” is, research it! Find out the rules to roller derby, watch an episode of their favorite show, listen to their podcast! It’s one thing to know what they like, it’s a whole other thing to attempt to share their interest and reach out to them about it. Follow up goes further than just asking—follow up shows you care.

3.     Take Opportunities to Spend Time With Them—No Matter How Small

Do you happen to have the same lunch break? Do you have a spare five minutes to go over and help them with what they’re working on? Let’s be real—are you bored at work and just need a mental break to go and talk about that previously mentioned interest that you did some research on last night? Take that opportunity. I understand wanting to take that 30-minute lunch break alone to collect your thoughts and enjoy the silence, but if you can find the energy, it’s well worth it in the long run.

4.     Find Something You Have or Can Do, and Share it with Them

Are you a good cook? Make them something to share. Are you crafty? Make them something small and personal. Did you find a cool place over the weekend? Tell them about it. Much like the early stages of dating, kindness and thoughtfulness goes a long way, and says a lot about your personal intentions. Sharing is caring, and caring leads to relationships.

5.     Finally, Initiate the Out-of-Work Hang-Out

If you’re one of the lucky few—they may do this before you do. More likely than not, however, you’re going to have to take the plunge and ask them to hang out. For me, this was a huge step. I rarely reached out to others, and waited for others to reach out to me. It has taken years to resonate with me that it wasn’t because people didn’t like me that they weren’t asking to hang out with me; it was that I never asked to hang out with them. To help shake the nerves of a “friend-date,” keep it casual. Lunch, drinks, or maybe seeing a museum are all low impact activities that people are usually open to.


            At the end of the day, don’t be discouraged if your “work friend” isn’t interested in being your “real life friend.” Some people will not be interested in spending time with you, and that is in no way a reflection of you. You should also never change or alter who you are in order to compensate for who they are. Keeping personas is exhausting and the worst form of lying; eventually your persona will drop and any kind of acquaintanceship is ruined because they thing you’ve drastically changed, when really you just grew tired of faking it.

            Also, remember that developing a friendship can take a long time. If you think about your closest, best friend, it more than likely took months or even years for them to reach that status with you, and vice versa. The person you’re trying to befriend may not become your bestie overnight. They may not become your bestie at all. The first time you try and make this transition, it may not work; however, it was a huge personal growth to attempt this at all. It isn’t easy to put it all on the line with someone, especially in trying to make a friend.

            Most importantly, it’s important to be a friend to yourself. If you aren’t okay with yourself, or you aren’t treating yourself well, other people will likely not want to be your friend either. When we are being self-destructive or depreciative, it invites others to do the same, and that’sa horrible way to begin a relationship with someone. Take the time to love yourself and give yourself what you need before you open your home and heart to someone else, even if it is “just as friends.”

Happy Friend Hunting!

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