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Are you friends with coworkers? Maybe you should be...

Nurses Article   (1,691 Views | 11 Replies | 1,643 Words)

SafetyNurse1968 has 20 years experience as a ADN, BSN, MSN, PhD and specializes in Oncology, Home Health, Patient Safety.

12 Followers; 56 Articles; 18,987 Profile Views; 356 Posts

What Does Friendship Mean To You?

"A friend will help you move, but a true friend will help you move a body." What a great quote…and so pertinent to nursing since we move bodies all the time. But this article isn’t about bodies, it’s about friendship. Why is friendship a topic for safety nurse? Because it turns out that having friends improves your health, gives you confidence, and promotes emotional stability – qualities that make for a safer nursing workforce.

Friendship

  1. 1. How many close friends do you have?

    • 22
      1
    • 13
      2
    • 21
      3
    • 9
      4
    • 11
      5 or more
  2. 2. Is it a good idea to be friends with coworkers?

    • 49
      Yes
    • 27
      No
  3. 3. Can men and women be friends?

    • 70
      Yes
    • 6
      No
  4. 4. Do you wish you had more friends?

    • 33
      Yes
    • 43
      No

76 members have participated

Are you friends with coworkers? Maybe you should be...

I just read an interview on NPR with Lydia Denworth, author of a book on friendship. Denworth says I should work as hard at friendship as I do at working out or eating right. Why? Because research shows that having close friendships plays an important role in my health.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about friendship because my daughter, who is about to be 12, doesn’t seem to have any friends. She comes home almost every day with a sob story about how she sits alone at lunch, how no one wants her in their group, how this person or that person has betrayed her, doesn’t like her, makes fun of her. I worry about my girl so much. She is adopted, she has a history of significant trauma, and she was exposed to oxycontin (and who knows what else) in the womb. I’ll be brutally honest here as well, she is shaped like an adorable little beach ball, and she likes her hair short. She gets called “fat” and she is frequently mistaken for a boy. Top all of that off with her brain, which is round where mine is square and loopy where mine is linear. Her thought processes confound and amaze me, so I am 100% sure she confuses the 11 year-old-girls she is trying to communicate with.

I’ve told her, “One of these days, someone is going to come along who gets you, who loves you for who you are. That person is going to be so special. You may have to wait, but you will find her.” But until that day comes…what do I do? She’s part of a small group of kids with similar issues who are now meeting once a week to learn how to make friends. I give her tips on how to handle bullies: yawn, stretch, walk away, laugh, say something kind. I’ve told her, “When those girls are mean to you, just say ‘thank you for making me stronger.’” Or how about the old tried and true, “I’m rubber and you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.” And I also try to coach her on friendship skills: listen, ask questions, don’t boast, be yourself, don’t try so hard, but how do you tell an eleven-year-old not to be so…needy? And at the end of the day, after she’s asleep in bed, I cry sometimes, and I worry. I worry because I don’t want her to be lonely, or to fall for the first guy that pays her some attention. 

My husband doesn’t worry. He believes in her. He tells me, “She’s going to be fine. She’s amazing (we agree on that point). Stop worrying (ha!).” He also pointed out something to me that was right in front of me - something I just couldn’t see. My daughter does have a friend - her sister. My biological daughter is one-and-a-half years younger than my adopted daughter, but they are the bestest of buddies. How could I have missed that? And all you need is ONE. 

Defining Friendship

What is a friend? A person one has an emotional bond with (thank you, dictionary). The definition also says we aren’t in sexual relationships with friends, and they aren’t typically relatives. But are those definitions important? How about defining friendship by how it makes you feel: good, positive, full of warm fuzzies. Friendships are long-lasting and stable. There is cooperation and reciprocity between friends. I think that can happen with your spouse, your sister or any other relative. According to the NPR article, “What matters is the quality of the bond, not its origin.” 

Friendship and Gender

Sally: So you're saying that a man can be friends with a woman he finds unattractive?

Harry: No, you pretty much want to nail 'em too.

Sally: What if they don't want to have sex with you?

Harry: Doesn't matter because the sex thing is already out there so the friendship is ultimately doomed and that is the end of the story.

Sally: Well, I guess we're not going to be friends then.

Harry: Guess not.

Sally: That's too bad. You were the only person that I knew in New York.

Remember When Harry Met Sally? Whether you agree or disagree, there’s no arguing that men and women tend to handle friendship differently. According to Denworth, women do friendship face-to-face; we talk out our problems. Men do relationships side-by-side. They do things together. Again, I’m not sure that really matters. What does matter is that men and women value friendship in the same way. There are more similarities than differences. It’s not just men and women making the odd friendship pair. I’m sure you’ve seen the videos of horses and cats making friends. There’s even one of a tiger with a pig:

 

Apparently horses, zebras, hyenas, vampire bats, birds and even fish can form social relationships. Humans, however, we do it in a much more complex way.

Two Peas in a Pod?

The average number of very close relationships is four. In the NPR article, Denworth says that few people can sustain more than six very close relationships. 

People tend to choose friends who are much like themselves. We choose those of similar age, race, religion, socioeconomic status, educational level and political stance. Researchers at Princeton used fMRI to track the blood flow in the brains of subjects who watched a wide variety of videos. They found revealing patterns in the nucleus accumbens (in the lower forebrain) and in the superior parietal lobule. In other words, the brains of close friends respond in similar ways, with the same ebb and flow of attention, distraction and boredom. In fact, researchers were able to predict the strength of two people’s bond based on their brain scan. Just like with a love interest, friendship is about good Chemistry. 

Friends with (Health) Benefits

Social relationships can improve the cardiovascular and immune systems, how well you sleep and even your mental health. Research has even shown that people with strong social ties have lower concentrations of fibrinogen, a protein associated with chronic inflammation. Inflammation has been linked to cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and even periodontal disease. A 2010 meta-analysis of 148 different research studies found that “people with stronger social relationships had a 50 percent increased likelihood of survival than those with weaker social relationships.”

There is evidence that a lack of friends is poisonous to your health. Studies have correlated a weak social network with depression, cognitive decline, poor wound healing, and delayed cancer recovery. Loneliness takes a physical and emotional toll similar to risk factors like obesity, high blood pressure, unemployment, lack of exercise and smoking cigarettes. I should know, I was friendless for over 15 years. It. Was. Horrible. I felt like I was on the outside looking in. I would watch Friends and cry instead of laugh. I tried. I got out there, but I couldn’t crack the code. And then one day, I met my best friend. My boyfriend introduced me to the wife of a local shop owner, and we’ve been like salt and pepper ever since. 

Should We Be Friends with Coworkers?

I’ve been invited to social events outside of work many times, and I always decline, though studies show that having friends at work can increase job satisfaction, performance and productivity according to CNN business. I like to be friendly with coworkers, but I need those boundaries in place. I also don’t make friends with my neighbors – same issues, right? If it doesn’t work out, are you going to move? Change jobs? Being friends with coworkers can be problematic if you are in competition for the same position, bonus or raise. You have to be careful who to trust as well. If you share personal details and then they “get out” it can damage not only your feelings, but also your career prospects. What about being friends with a coworker who is not a top performer? That could reflect negatively on you. Or what about work friends who are negative and take venting to a chronic level. 

The Best Way to Have a Good Friend is to Be One…

There’s lots of advice out there for how to make friends. I found these seven guidelines for creating friendship:

  1. Take a genuine interest in others
  2. Listen closely
  3. Empathize
  4. Remember
  5. Initiate contact
  6. Reveal yourself
  7. Respect limits

Get Out There and Make It Happen

So maybe let’s stop taking friendship for granted. Let’s find safety in numbers. When you say, “Let’s get together sometime.” Pull out your calendar and make a date. Instead of feeling guilty when a friend asks you to do something, stop thinking about how your family needs you and remind yourself that you’re doing it for your health. Prioritizing friendship is incredibly important. It can prevent you from getting sick and help you live longer. As you walk out the door on your way to a girl’s night out, waving to your kids as they fuss at the babysitter, tell yourself that you’re doing it for them.

What do you think? Do you have lots of friends or one really good one? Do you think men and women can be friends? How about coworkers? What makes a good friend? I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories – please share!

References

NPR on Friendship: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/02/22/807742275/survival-of-the-friendliest-how-our-close-friendships-help-us-thrive

The science of friendship: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/16/science/friendship-brain-health.html

CNN on friends at work: https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/06/success/no-friends-at-work/index.html

Social Relationships and Mortality Risk https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316#abstract2

Social Support and Health https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16758315

Dr. Kristi Miller, aka Safety Nurse is an Assistant Professor of nursing at USC-Upstate and a Certified Professional in Patient Safety. She is also a mother of four who loves to write so much that she would probably starve if her phone didn’t remind her to take a break. Her work experiences as a hospital nurse make it easy to skip using the bathroom to get in just a few more minutes on the computer. She is obsessed with patient safety. Please read her blog, Safety Rules! on allnurses.com. You can also get free Continuing Education at www.safetyfirstnursing.com. In the guise of Safety Nurse, she is sending a young Haitian woman to nursing school and you can learn more about that adventure: https://www.gofundme.com/rose-goes-to-nursing-school

12 Followers; 56 Articles; 18,987 Profile Views; 356 Posts

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I think there are different degrees of friendships w/ coworkers.  Would I be willing to share intimate secrets with them.  NO. 

Am I willing to go out after work to go for a pizza or birthday party.  Yes.

Another factor might be if you don't have your close friends in the immediate area.  For example, many nurses have to leave their hometown in order to secure another position in another state.  You won't know anybody there.  I would think it might be natural or even a necessity to make a friend or two while you're there.

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3 Followers; 4,701 Posts; 36,257 Profile Views

For the girl who has to deal with evil ***es every day - how about she gives them a sock in the kisser?  They will respect her.

Just kidding. 

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TriciaJ has 39 years experience as a RN and specializes in Psych, Corrections, Med-Surg, Ambulatory.

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I've had jobs that ate my life to the extent that if I didn't have work friends I'd have no friends at all.  The bummer is that those friendships generally do not hold up when one of you leaves the job.  The intentions are good but the whole thing generally dies a natural death.  My permanent solid friends are people I went to school with.  And they're geographically far away.

Another benefit to retirement:  finally getting to develop lasting local friendships, because it's a numbers game and also dependent on repeated contact over time.

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SafetyNurse1968 has 20 years experience as a ADN, BSN, MSN, PhD and specializes in Oncology, Home Health, Patient Safety.

12 Followers; 56 Articles; 356 Posts; 18,987 Profile Views

1 hour ago, TriciaJ said:

I've had jobs that ate my life to the extent that if I didn't have work friends I'd have no friends at all.  The bummer is that those friendships generally do not hold up when one of you leaves the job.  The intentions are good but the whole thing generally dies a natural death.  My permanent solid friends are people I went to school with.  And they're geographically far away.

Another benefit to retirement:  finally getting to develop lasting local friendships, because it's a numbers game and also dependent on repeated contact over time.

I hear you.  I spent many years alone. It took a dedicated commitment to friendship to finally get it to happen for me. I often think about retirement. SOMEDAY! Thanks for commenting.

4 hours ago, Mergirlc said:

I think there are different degrees of friendships w/ coworkers.  Would I be willing to share intimate secrets with them.  NO. 

Am I willing to go out after work to go for a pizza or birthday party.  Yes.

Another factor might be if you don't have your close friends in the immediate area.  For example, many nurses have to leave their hometown in order to secure another position in another state.  You won't know anybody there.  I would think it might be natural or even a necessity to make a friend or two while you're there.

Sounds like you've got it figured out! I once overshared at work, and it was so embarrassing...knowing that they knew...wondering if they'd tell...

Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

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219 Posts; 2,957 Profile Views

Please indulge me as I go off-topic for a moment.

Quirky, late blooming tween girls are catnip both to predators and to online fringe groups.

Please make SURE you know all her online whereabouts.  Even the safest sites have comboxes (and weirdos).

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Hoosier_RN has 20 years experience as a MSN and specializes in LTC, home health, hospice, ICU, ER, dialysis.

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I'm friendly with coworkers, but friendships, like my romantic relationships, I keep out of the workplace. I belong to groups that fulfill my interests and that's where I've found my friends 

Edited by Hoosier_RN

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KatieMI has 6 years experience as a BSN, MSN, RN and specializes in ICU, LTACH, Internal Medicine.

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What I never can get is what is wrong with being introvert who goes to work in order to do the job and not to "make friends" there. Because with the latter inevitably come gossip, cattiness, cliques, politics, lost time, too much personal info going around and being known (and used - inappropriately) by too many people, too much stuff on social networks and, for me personally, eating/drinking things which are unsafe. 

I prefer to go to work, do the work and be respected for my skills and knowledge, not for being everyone's dear and facebook friend. 

Edited by KatieMI

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4 minutes ago, KatieMI said:

What I never can get is what is wrong with being introvert who goes to work in order to do the job and not to make friends there. Because with the latter inevitably come gossip, cattiness, cliques, politics, lost time, too much personal info going around and being known (and used - inappropriately) by too many people, too much stuff on social networks and, for me personally, eating/drinking things which are unsafe. 

I prefer to go to work, do the work and be respected for my skills and knowledge, not for being everyone's dear and facebook friend. 

Perfect^^^. Me too

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Mandy Higdon specializes in PTA.

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I'm having a hard time moving past feeling sad for your daughter. Shes so pleasant,  fun, adventurous.  I'd love to be her buddy but I know its important to her to have friends her age. I'm glad shes understood, loved,  and accepted by her sister. Me and my sister never had that friendship. 

Friends. I have alot but only have maybe one I'd call in a time of need, maybe. Should work on that. It's important for me to be friends with my coworkers, I'm with them more than anyone else in my life so I need a connection to be happy with my job.  I've always tended to get along more with men, just seem to have more in common and my brain just seems wired "male". I'm often misunderstood by my female counterparts and haven't had a girl best friend since I was 17. 

 

 

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Serhilda is a ADN, RN and specializes in Cardiac Telemetry, Emergency Department.

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2 hours ago, Mandy Higdon said:

I'm having a hard time moving past feeling sad for your daughter. Shes so pleasant,  fun, adventurous.  I'd love to be her buddy but I know its important to her to have friends her age. I'm glad shes understood, loved,  and accepted by her sister. Me and my sister never had that friendship. 

Friends. I have alot but only have maybe one I'd call in a time of need, maybe. Should work on that. It's important for me to be friends with my coworkers, I'm with them more than anyone else in my life so I need a connection to be happy with my job.  I've always tended to get along more with men, just seem to have more in common and my brain just seems wired "male". I'm often misunderstood by my female counterparts and haven't had a girl best friend since I was 17. 

 

 

I don't mean to sound rude saying this, but your lack of female friends probably has something to do with your stereotyping of them... You've already categorized yourself as "not like other girls" and people pick up on that.

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RNperdiem has 14 years experience as a RN.

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I get along fine with my coworkers, but I draw some boundaries between "work buddies" and close friends. Work buddies are really acquaintances. They provide some companionship, comraderie and add interest to life the way most acquaintances do. There are boundaries about details of my life that are kept private, boundaries about how big a favor I can ask. Turing a work buddy into a friend requires putting in the work to see each other outside of work and build a relationship; it comes with more obligations.

I am an introvert, and keep a small circle of very close friends/family as my confidantes. As long as I have them, I am never lonely.

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