Saturday, October 22, 2005

cliques and human nature

This American Life had an interesting segment about children and about making a rule in school that kids are not allowed to tell other kids they cant play with them. In other words, making them kinder.

Adults generally arent as cruel on the surface as kids but even among adults, cliques still form. There are still people who are outcasts and still those who are not. I have seen this in every organization I have been a part of and I have always been fascinated with watching these groups form and the behavior of those in the clique towards those outside of it.

It is funny how people are too. I have watched people deny that cliques exist...that there is an "in crowd" or that people who are in the "in crowd" get advantages over others who are not. Usually it is people who are in the clique who cant see it or are unwilling to admit, even to themselves, that they get advantages from being in a particular group. They seem to deny it in the same way that many white Americans deny there is an advantage to being white or in the same way that many men deny that there is an advantage to being male...and so on.

I have seen people act like complete jerks and then accuse people of not liking them because of clique dynamics rather than because of their own behavior. I have overlooked such behavior in others if it was coming from someone in my own inner circle. That too is something I see over and over again. Bad behavior is tolerated much more when someone is "in" with us than when they are "out." This happens on many many levels too. Americans tolerate things from other Americans that they comdem in other nations. Republicans accept actions from Bush they would never accept from a Democrat and vice versa. People accept and overlook things in their friends that they openly condem in others.

This whole "us vs them" thing seems so inate and yet it causes a lot of trouble. From minor trouble like hurt feelings and broken friendships to much more major trouble like wars and genocide. One thing that scares me about this is that even though I often can see all of this very clearly, I find myself engaging in such thinking. I think of people as "us" and "them" all the time. I know I think more kindly towards those I consider in my group whatever it is. And it bothers me that even though I think of such thinking as dangerous, I still engage in it on some level.

But as a very wise friend once said to me "Awareness is half way towards solving the problem" So that is what I will do for now. I will try to be aware of this in myself.


E-Speed said...

I was just thinking of posting on a similar topic. Actually how clique dynamics change as you are introduced to more and more new people. I am finding things I used to tolerate from my "clique" are no longer tolerable anymore, and really realizing it was never tolerable, I just made it so because I really felt strongly about those people being in my life. Now that more and more people are being "added" to the clique, I am realizing I don't have to tolerate anything. I can be choosy, because there are people out there that don't do intolerable things.

And now I am struggling with how I adapt to the fact that I no longer hold others in my clique in such high esteem.

Sorry if that made no sense whatsoever :)

Great post Lynne!

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth is right, great post!
I have been on both sides of the clique but I was lucky and realized at a young age how the dynamics worked. I became a friendly person and was a member of many cliques- I never made anyone feel like they weren't part of my group because I had been(and still am in some circles) an outsider.
When I was popular, EVERYONE was popular with me. LOL! I shared the love and introduced my snobby 'friends' to some great people they otherwise would never have met.
Now as an adult I have also realized that there is nothing wrong with being on the outside- it's a very comfortable place and people visit me here often.

Anonymous said...

I looked up "cliques", "human Nature" on google and your blog came up.

I agree with the part that what will you do now?

I wanted to thank you for giving your thoughts on this.