Building a relationship with a co-worker isn’t something that happens overnight. It takes time and patience — not to mention a willingness to work with each other’s schedules. You’ve decided to practice the Microstep of inviting a co-worker out to coffee because you see the value in forging a stronger connection, but let’s be honest: Building a relationship from the ground up can feel a little strange if you don’t already share some sort of rapport. These three simple strategies will help you get a bit more acquainted with your co-worker and build a foundation of connection that you can build on with your Microstep.

Ask to cooperate on tasks

Spending more time working alongside your colleague on the same task can help you establish better teamwork and reveal commonalities you didn’t know you had. People are more cooperative and generally prosocial after a period of synchronous activity, Lynden Miles, Ph.D., a senior lecturer at the University of Western Australia’s School of Psychological Science, tells Thrive. While the workplace might not be conducive to what are traditionally thought of as synchronous activities (like singing or dancing), walking over to a coffee shop together is a great way to get to know each other better, and on the way, you can sync up your stride, or later on, work on tasks side by side. 

Build a foundation of trust

Trust is especially important in workplace relationships because it can lead to the exchange of ideas, greater innovation, and deeper connection, according to a study in the Journal of Business Models. A simple yet extremely significant way to build a sense of trust between you and your colleague is to hold more informal meetings. The study details just how effective these kinds of meetings can be: Participants noted that a more casual environment motivated out-of-the-box thinking, a free flow of ideas, and personal acquaintance. Because informal meetings reduced feelings of competition and gave employees the space to voice their feelings and opinions, a greater sense of trust was achieved. You can follow suit by informally checking in with your colleague at least once a week. The key is to keep things casual — don’t hold the meeting in a high-pressure environment. Instead, spend most of your time listening to your colleague, rather than talking yourself, and ask follow-up questions that encourage them to open up.

Be candid and compassionately direct with your colleague

Whenever possible, use a compassionately direct approach with your co-worker. Whether you’re giving feedback or they came looking for advice, your honesty will show your co-worker that you care about connecting in a meaningful way. What’s more, mindfully communicating will encourage your co-worker to do the same, and they might just have some specific ideas about how to make your workplace relationship better.

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  • Jessica Hicks

    Managing Editor at Thrive

    Jessica Hicks is a managing editor at Thrive. She graduated from Lehigh University with a degree in journalism, sociology, and anthropology, and is passionate about using storytelling to ignite positive change in the lives of others.