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I work in a research laboratory and my co-workers expect me to strike very close personal friendships with them that I find unhealthy - for example, they goof around a lot, playfully hit each other, share very personal experiences etc.

I am more of an introverted person who makes occasional, cordial small talk but cannot stand their idea of "closeness". I have been told that I come across as unfriendly and apathetic because I do not do any of the above mentioned things.

How do I maintain good relations with them while avoiding engaging in behaviour that makes me uncomfortable?

  • You do it by being cordial and collegial, not rude. How you accomplish that is a very cultural and personal matter and I'm not sure it's answerable or on-topic on this site. – Lilienthal Dec 13 '17 at 10:22
  • What is so offputting on the idea of creating friendships with coworkers? It could definetily improve both productivity (if done right) and happyness at work. I for example worked in 2 companys until now. In the first one everyone was rather distant and that makes (for me) interacting when not in work environment rather awkward. In my current one we go for example, eat together and it is (altough during work mostlly quiet and concentrated) much more confortable in general. Just curious in what way it is negative or you see it as negative. Definetily not judging you! :) – MansNotHot Dec 13 '17 at 10:26
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    This seems a better fit for Interpersonal Relationships – Snow Dec 13 '17 at 10:30
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    @MansNotHot Asking why this is offputting is kind of like asking why someone eating food they hate is offputting. No real explanation other than "it just is". Introversion, by some definitions, means that some / many / all forms of social interaction is exhausting and/or unpleasant. – Dukeling Dec 13 '17 at 10:31
  • Thank you Snow and Lilienthal, I will use a more appropriate platform for y question. – introvert Dec 13 '17 at 10:32
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Let them do what they are doing and you do what you are most comfortable with (occasionally smile as you mentioned). If you come across as unfriendly then so be it. It should be not important to you and they would eventually stop expecting that from you. They do not like your personal attitude and you do not like theirs. You all can still be professional with this personal dislike and not fight with each other. This may not be perfect situation but I think this as best "good relations" you can maintain. As long as it does not effect any productivity or your career growth, then just go along with it.

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How do I maintain good relations with them while avoiding engaging in behaviour that makes me uncomfortable?

Just explain to them, calmly and politely, how you feel. Don't judge their behaviour as inappropriate, just let them know you prefer not to engage in such things.

If someone playfully hits you or makes some other unwanted physical contact, ask them to please stop doing that as you're not comfortable with it.

If someone tries to share stories or coax stories out of you which you feel are too personal, just reply that you'd rather not discuss this topic in the workplace.

They may still consider you somewhat aloof, but at least if you tell them how you feel, then they should be able to respect your position and leave you to it.

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