How to Navigate Cliques and Lead a Happier Life

Cat Clique with the leader poised in the middle
Cat clique with the evil leader poised over her minions

I wish I could say after high school cliques go away, but they don’t.  Now, most of the time, we just call it office politics.  Although, in my day job it’s more of a hunger games atmosphere where everyone’s trying to kill you.  Sure, alliances form, but you know they’d shoot you with an arrow if they had to.  I work in the legal field though, so that probably explains it.  However, at all my other non-legal jobs there’s always been that clique atmosphere that can sap your happiness faster than getting hit with a bolt of lightning.  But the office isn’t the only place where cliques form.

A few weeks ago in my Facebook newsfeed I saw this post from someone who said she would be unfriending people and that if you were one of the unfriended she wanted you to know “it’s not you, it’s me”.  Okay, whatever.  I don’t understand why people post things like that.  If you’re going to unfriend people, just do it.  There’s no need to perpetuate the Facebook clique atmosphere and announce it to the world.  Anyway, that’s a whole other post.  But I figured I’d be one of the first to go.  See this person isn’t quite a friend, but she’s more than an acquaintance, so let’s call her a friquaintance.  We initially became friquaintances  about eleven years ago and bonded over our love of books, board games, and deep conversations.  She’s fairly older than me and married with kids, so she’s always busy and as time went on we kinda drifted apart.  No big deal; it happens.  Then she went through some hardships and things changed.  I’d send her messages of encouragement and support, offer to do things, but all I received were cold sometimes borderline nasty responses, if any.  After a couple of times, I just gave up.  I wasn’t the only one experiencing this, so I didn’t take it personally.  But that’s why I figured I’d be one of the first to go.

Well, I never even had to check to see if she unfriended me, because guess what?  The next day after the newsfeed post she sent me a message saying that she unfriended me, but I could still message her if I wanted.  My first thought… what are we in high school?  I’d like to say it didn’t bother me, but it did.  It hurt.  And gave me flashbacks of being left out all the time and everyone telling me I wasn’t part of the “inner circle”.  As if I didn’t know.  I never answered her, but this whole thing reminded me of how painful it can be to navigate the world of cliques.

So here’s my top three tips to keep your happiness and sanity in check:

1. Be assertive.

I’m the last person that wants to be assertive.  I’d rather slink away to a dark hole in the wall with my tail between my legs.  But let me tell you, the first time I spoke up for myself… I felt empowered!  Sure, it probably didn’t do anything to penetrate their icy exterior, but it sure made me feel better.  And that’s the important thing; making yourself feel good.   So speak up, let it be known that you won’t tolerate the behavior.  Next time someone makes a snarky comment and tries to play it off as “just joking” say something like, It sounds more passive-aggressive to me and I don’t like being treated like that.  Or I don’t understand the joke.  Most likely they won’t have the guts to repeat it.  And if they do… up the ante with something stronger like asking them what they’re afraid of and/or why they must bolster their self-esteem by belittling other people.

Remember what Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”.

2.  Make friends.

I’m an introverted wall-flower type, but somehow I seem to attract buzzing bees all around me.  For years it dumbfounded me until my husband said it was because I listened and made the conversation all about them (because I don’t like to talk about myself).  So, to let you in on a little secret, I’m not sure how to make friends, but this seems like a good way.  Once you get comfortable and have a general group of pals then you can start finding common interests.  And having a general group of friends with allies everywhere makes selective cliques easier to navigate.  Or easier to ignore because you have your own friends and do your own thing.

3. Don’t take it personally.

When all else fails, just remember not to take it personally.  There’s so much going on in other people’s lives and they’re playing the political game too that sometimes they don’t realize what they’re doing.  And most times, it truly isn’t about you.  Sure they may make snide comments to you or behind your or whatever, but it’s probably because of whatever is going on in their lives… like low self-esteem, relationship problems, unhappiness because their lives are not going how they want (and maybe, to them your life looks way better, so they feel the need to bring you down)… you name it.  It sucks, but don’t dwell on it because that will only make things worse.  Just try to think of and be thankful for the good things in your life; be grateful.  Life is too short to be anything else.

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