When I was in school, it seemed like I was always on the outside of the important cliques. You know what I mean: Those tight social groups that seemed most intent on excluding other kids.
If you remove the label, though, you see that small social groups are a natural part of how society works. You will tend to associate closely with a few people, and it’s easy and comfortable to maintain that group over a longer period of time because, well, you know each other. Others will tend to feel excluded, even if they actually aren’t, because they don’t know the social norms you’ve developed in this group.
These kinds of groups form at work as well. People find others they want to hang out with, and a group forms. Others might feel excluded or unwelcome, but this is usually more from ignoring others and not making an attempt to reach out.
If you’re on the outside of a clique, think about this:
- Is it really important? Perhaps your reactions stem more from feeling rejected than from an actual need to join. Take a look at what you would expect to get from the group, and give back to them.
- Are the barriers to joining actually real? Many times you might have reluctance just based on perceptions, but in fact the group isn’t particularly against inclusion of new people. It’s easier to judge this by becoming friendly with one of the members.
- How can you get introduced? It’s easier to “break in” to a group if one of the insiders is somehow recommending you.
- What value can you bring? If you can do something for the group that THEY value, they’re going to be much more accepting of your “membership.”
Next, look at the groups that you’re a part of, especially ones where you have any kind of (even informal) leadership or organizing role. Are you doing things that might be perceived as excluding others, or are you actively reaching out to welcome new people?
Often it’s easy to have groups that are TOO stable, and the problem is that they cease to have new things to talk about. I see this often at lunchtime conversations, where the same people will get together, but then rehash the same discussion they’ve had for the last year. Bringing in new voices and perspectives helps to make life interesting.
And more fun.
by Carl Dierschow