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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Science of Friendship Part I

Feeling like your group of friends acts differently toward you than they do toward each other?  Feeling like they sometimes do things and fail to include you?  You’re probably right.

The thing about a group of friends (3 or more) is that regardless of resistance, each individual will almost always end up ranking every member of their group of friends from favorite to least favorite.  Being least favorite doesn't mean you suck (although you might).  It simply means that the rest of the group's members are more compatible and/or comfortable with each other than they are with you.  Oftentimes it’s done subconsciously instead of purposely.  And so we tend to show it through our actions rather than words, and eventually form a subgroup, in which one or more of the members of the original group are not included.  Of course we invite the entire group for outings, partying, and the like, but the members of our subgroup have a higher security clearance.  We develop a special bond with them, dragging them along to help pick out our wedding colors, calling them first when we're back in town to visit, and even gossiping about group members outside of the subgroup.  We rank because human beings naturally think in terms of order.  Order is the basis for most decision-making, and so of course, we can't help it.  From the moment your 2nd grade teacher taught you "greater than" and "less than", you were a ranking machine, assigning differing levels of importance to activities, video games, and eventually people. 

If that one friend is complaining about being left out all the time, then she’s probably not imagining it like the rest of the group suggests, as you all ride off onto another film-worthy adventure not starring her.  The exception here is that the friend doesn't put the energy into friendships that she would like to receive.  And if you've been reading my posts, then you know how I feel about the golden rule, reciprocity, etc. (necessary for any friendship or relationship to stand the test of time).

But regardless of reason, the problem with groups of friends and order is that someone has to be last.  So if you're last, how do you deal? 

It depends on your personality type. 

If you value the loose friendship that you have with your group, but you still desire more favoritism or inclusion, a frequent mistake is seeking that attention from one of the group's current members.  It's likely that these people know your tendencies, where you are in life, and what you represent.  So unless you plan on making some drastic changes, it may be time to accept that these friends assign you a certain value based on their perception of who you really are.  Unless this perception is incredibly distorted, it's time to find another source for the type of friendship that you seek.  Rest assured, there are potential friends out there who will appreciate you for the eccentric, backwards-thinking individual that you are and place you on the very top of their totem pole.

If a loose friendship simply leaves you unsatisfied with your position in the hierarchy of group members, then it's time to pull yourself out of the group.  Remaining friends with the members individually, but opting out of group activities is a good way to wean yourself off of the group.  Those who were only your friend as a condition of being apart of the group will eventually fade, and although you still may not receive the tight friendship that you yearn for from the remaining friends, the overall quality of friendship will likely improve. 

Regarding this possible improvement, think of it in terms of averages.  You've got a group of 5 friends.  Let's say you rank the friendship between you and these individual members on a scale of 1-10, and the 5 members individually earn an 8, 7, 5, 3 and 2.  If you're hanging out with all 5 of these people, that's an average of 5 in terms of quality.  Now kick 5, 3, and 2 to the curb and your overall quality of friendship increases to 7.5! 

Of course, this all depends on if you value quality over quantity, or quality over multiple options.

And I hope you do, for your sanity's sake.

Related Posts: Relationship Theory: Intention VS Perception, Phoenix Soulstar's 9 Cautionary Dating Tips (For Guys)


  1. Steph Lo: I don't agree. All of my girls are quality. We all bring a unique personality to the group. And I would rate them all a ten. I suppose I am God blessed to have such an amazing group of girlfriends. #WIN

  2. You know what Steph, you guys do a great job of keeping the love circulating, but you're telling me that you don't subconsciously have a favorite, and a second favorite, and a third favorite? It's not to say that one person has less quality, just that we have our preferences, and these preferences may influence the emotions of the least favorite. And if everyone is quality (all 9 and 10s in any situation), that's truly a blessing. But it's easy to forget the fat you had to cut to make that what it is.

  3. Most people disagree because we don't think about it that way. But although all of our close friends are equal in our head, we tend to exhibit something different through our actions. My friend disagreed immediately also, but once I pointed how she acts differently toward certain members of the same group, she changed her mind, although she was kinda mad at me for pointing it out. Once again, not an indicator of quality, but subconscious (and sometimes conscious) preference. Don't hurt me.

  4. Steph Lo: I don't have a favorite or second fav, etc. And yes I prefer each of them in different situations, but remember, we all bring different qualities to the table so that is to be expected. & I may act differently to each of them according to t...heir personality. I know a certain friend is more lovey, so I love on them more, I know one is more tough so I can lovingly crack joke on here, doesn't mean i like her less than the one i hung on. lol. like i said, i guess i am just God Blessed. & Yes, when we were younger, the group was larger and we did make cuts... but now we are grown and the group is built on solid friendships. We are not just seasonal friends.

  5. You're such a fighter steph, always standing up for what you believe in. I HATE THAT lol!!! I do agree that different friends serve different purposes, but the main argument of the post is how a single friend from a group can be unintentio...nally made to feel like the least favorite, and how that friend can deal with that. It may not happen in your group (although I don't agree, but once again, that's not the point), but I wrote this post because I know 2 separate groups now (and several in the past) of friends where this is taking place, and the least favorite complains, but the others won't acknowledge her complaints as fact. Simply put, it does happen. Some people are the least favorite and don't care, and so no one in the group ever even thinks about it, but this is moreso targeted towards those that do have trouble dealing. Come on Steph, you can't fight me all morning on this. What a troublemaker :P

  6. Steph Lo: lol. ok ok, I agree. & every group can't be as great as mine... it's impossible. lol. Sucks for that friend that they won't acknowledge her concerns. :( i feel bad for her. ~ Have a great day!!!

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  8. I was definitely a lower end friend in a group. the funny thing was i realized it pretty easily. since i was still pretty immature i clung to them and tried to make it work, tried to get more invites. but it didnt. so i did some growing up and ventured away and met some new groups. and amazingly the first group began to miss me lol. so now i have a different level standing in different groups. this blog was on point. (yay!! i finally read all the ones i skipped previously!!)

  9. Thanks for checking it out Bri. Yeah, I think it happens to us all at one point or another. But I think everyone handles it differently depending on if they're comfortable with their position.