As I exited the room I looked back to its occupants, waved, and said goodbye. Not one person looked up in acknowledgment or returned the greeting. With this particular subgroup it is consistent behavior and in the past I have overlooked it. Most times when I take my leave I look around and note they are busy; choosing to leave the premises without even bothering to speak the words. But pretending I am unaffected is being duplicitous and untrue to who I am.
It’s a prickly thorn in my side.
But over the past year I have had time to reflect and observe the various groups of people who co-habit life with me. Much as I hate to admit it; the cliques are just as prevalent in adulthood as in the high school years. Why, as humans, are we programmed in this manner?
“Clique. noun. : a narrow exclusive circle or group of persons; especially : one held together by common interests, views, or purposes.” Merriam Webster Online, Merriam Webster, n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2015.
Greetings, and the acknowledgment of them, are basic social skills. It is these skills that I harp on my sons frequently. To make eye-contact. To have a firm handshake. Hello. How are you? Thank you. Goodbye. It is NOT that hard to say these short phrases of simple etiquette. Behaving outside these parameters is disrespectful and rude. I can dismiss kids’ reluctance to utilize these skills, most times. But in adults? I contemplated how to maneuver this minefield and the more I thought of it; the more it became clear. I am dealing with cliques.
I am very aware what it is like to be in one. I have been involved in two different bookclubs in two geographical locations and the perception is the same amongst the parents not included. Clique. Sometimes the group dynamics become a chapter from Rosalind Wiseman’s book, Queen Bees and Wannabes. It happens in school organizations, work environments, church groups and families. The natural tendency for humans to become close to like-minded individuals is called friendship. But when it becomes exclusionary, judgmental, and just mean; it evolves into something darker and subversive. You can’t avoid them.
I must learn to navigate through them.
In the workplace cliques align those with the same point-of-view or work ethic. In school organizations parents willing serve in groups to bridge the gap between educators and students towards a common goal. In religious or spiritual organizations, small groups are a way to affirm beliefs; to be inspired by those who live by similar principles. In groups of friends there is great joy in finding a person who deeply understands your convictions. It is normal for people to want to belong with others; to feel the safety and protection in numbers; such as a military spouses’ club who can relate to long deployments and provide support. These social dynamics are important and it is the depth of these relationships that give us meaning.
In high school it had taken me some time to understand these circles and the realization dawned upon me years later. The proliferation of cliques occurred when others were dissatisfied with the status quo. It granted self-worth to the exclusionary; to exude control over others by agreeing to the complicit rules of being a part of this group. If one disagreed or did not conform, he/she were ostracized.
The simple act of not acknowledging someone’s presence is a person establishing his/her boundary. You do not belong. These people do not encourage the diversity of ideas. They are narrow-minded in scope. They do not accept change. I am too busy to waste any time on you.
And so I continue to smile and be cordial. I strive to remain consistent and transparent; open to new encounters and diverse perspectives. I am relying on my intuition; the bodily cues of the subconscious that relay more information than facts. As I read Malcolm Gladwell’s, Blink, I too must learn to trust first impressions made in a blink of an eye. I no longer yearn to fit in. My only prerequisite is to be happy with my choices and to know that they represent the values and experiences that embody who I am.
It is only in finding happiness within myself that I can let the petty stuff go. When I choose to be authentic, I am the best that I can ever be. I. am. ME.
I have been blessed with many friends from all walks of life; the ones who appreciate my quirks and quinky-dinks. Each person brings a unique quality to my journey, contributing new possibilities to my widening view. It is easy to smile and say Hello. To look up from the road in front of you (tunnel vision) to wave (yes, I am guilty). When you stop considering what the world can do for you and think of what you can do for the world life becomes a better place. I need to plant my happy seeds and hope they will grow. I am a flower, after all. I am clipping off the thorns and reaching for the warmth of the sun. My stalk is tough and I take it all in stride. I’m finally growing up.
Happy Earth Day. Give and live to your fullest.