Who will be friends with who? When a group comes together for the first time, where do cliques come from? Friendship and cliques are the subject of this Chapter.
How to Guess Who Will Be Friends with Who
It’s impossible to know exactly why two people are friends with each other. There is an unlimited number of reasons. Instead, you should think about what makes two people probably want to be friends. This is much easier.
There are three things that predict who will be friends with who:
- Being in the same place at the same time.
- Sharing attitudes, beliefs and interests.
- Being Attractive as a potential friend.
Even though friendship can be very complicated, if you think about these three things, you can make some pretty good guesses about who will be friends with who.
Being in the Same Place at the Same Time (Proximity)
Being in the right place at the right time is SO important. It can be the difference between friendship and total strangers. Even if you can keep a friendship going using phones, Facebook, and the internet, at some point in time, you need to be face to face so that you can get to know each other.
If you just think about things like extra-curricular sports, it’s obvious that being in the same place at the same time is important. Think about any team at your school. Most of the players are friends with each other. Part of the reason why is because they have the chance to get to know each other on a regular basis. Being in the same place at the same times gives them lots in common and lots to talk about.
Sharing Attitudes, Beliefs, and Interests
If you think about friends, it’s easy to understand why being similar is important. Friends provide emotional support and companionship. If the two people aren’t similar enough, it is difficult for them to find common ground and relate to each other. Being similar also promotes friendship because similarity makes two people more likely to be in the same place at the same time.
Here are some specific examples of how sharing attitudes, beliefs, and interests helps make two people friends. First, think about sharing interests.
- People who are interested in fashion browse fashion magazines and/or enjoy shopping.
- People who are interested in sports play them and/or follow professional teams.
- People who are interested in music play instruments and/or join ensembles.
In each case sharing interests puts you in the same place at the same time. This means that:
Similar interests →
Being similar also helps friendship by making people compatible with each other. Imagine two students talking and getting to know each other for the first time. In this situation, there are no rules. They can say anything they want. For them to be friends, they need to “hit the target” and say the right thing. If they do, the conversation is good. If they don’t the conversation is bad. With no rules, hitting the target is easier if the two people are very similar.
Imagine a LGBTQ+ boy who notices the bodies of other boys. If this same boy were talking with a religiously conservative, anti-gay classmate, do you think he should say, “Did you notice Tanner’s cute abs today in the locker room?” Assuming he did, do you think that his “conversational dart” would “hit the target” and spark a good conversation? I can guarantee no. Such a comment would be conversational suicide. In this scenario:
Sharing different beliefs →
bad conversation →
Two people don’t need to be so different in order to “miss the target.” Imagine a girl who really likes shopping and so she brings up the subject as she walks and talks with a new acquaintance. If the new acquaintance likes shopping too, the conversation will be good. Both of them will know about stores, accessories, and brand names, and so on, which can all be topics of enjoyable conversation. In fact, if the conversation is pleasant they might even decide to go to the store together. In this scenario:
Similarity of interests →
being in the same place at the same time (shopping) →
Imagine a very different situation. The new girl only likes soccer and dislikes shopping. In this situation, the comment about shopping “misses the conversational target” and the new girl is unlikely to relate. The correct “dart” to throw was something on the subject of soccer and now that the girl who likes shopping has “missed the target,” the conversation will be bad.
missed opportunity for shared experience →
missed opportunity for friendship
“Hitting the target” when you’re talking with someone is not just about what you say. It’s also about what you do. Some people like to touch when they talk and some people don’t. If you touch someone who doesn’t like it, you miss the target.
The next time you are talking with someone, imagine that you are playing a game of darts. Everything you do/say is a dart that you throw. If you “hit the target,” the conversation is easy. If you miss, the conversation dies. In short:
Similarity in attitudes, beliefs and interests →
being “on target” →
easy and enjoyable conversation →
Being Attractive to Each Other as Friends
Let’s be honest, no one wants to be friends with someone who is pathetic. People who are bad at everything; people who never get the right answer; or people who always get tired are attractive as friends. They “suck,” for lack of a better word, and who wants to be friends with someone who sucks?
In contrast, everyone wants to be friends with someone who is always scoring goals, hosting great parties, and is up and active and fun! The success of our friends and the people we hang out with is important. If they are great, it is almost like we get to share in that greatness a little bit ourselves. As a result, people who are Attractive (remember, that doesn’t just mean beautiful!) have a much easier time making friends. The more attractive two people are, the more likely they will want to be friends with each other. It’s just input of energy over again;
input of energy →
chances to talk and hang out →
The “Friendship Cycle”
In real life, each of the three predictors of friendship leads to the other two. Look at the Picture 9.1. Can you see how each arrow points to the other two things? What this means is that friends go round and round this cycle as long as they want to still be friends:
Sharing attitudes, beliefs and interest →
Being attractive as a potential friend →
Being in the same place at the same time →
Or the opposite can happen:
Being in the same place at the same time →
Being attractive as a potential friend →
Sharing attitudes, beliefs and interest →
As two people go around and around the Cycle of Friendship, they can become closer and closer friends. So long as they are motivated, they cycle keeps turning.
Picture 9.2: Friends who are motivated will move closer and closer together.
Think about the two people you know who are best friends. Think about how much time they spend together in the same place at the same time and how similar they are in many different ways.
Where do Cliques Come From?
It turns out that the same predictors of friendship also apply to cliques. That is why I discuss them in the same Chapter.
Being Similar to Each Other
When a new group of students comes together for the first time, everyone is generally very friendly. But, just because people are friendly doesn’t mean that they aren’t judging each other. Everything someone does or says is being judged by everyone. If someone says or does something lame and “misses the target,” they will get a bad reputation very fast. Remember, talking and hanging out is like playing a game of darts.
Similarity → being on target →
the ability to relate → enjoyable conversation → liking →
seeking proximity during times of unrestricted movement →
the beginnings of a friendship and a clique
With no rules to guide what people should do and say, being similar to other people in the group is very important. Not only does it keep you on target with what you do/say, it also puts you in the same place at the same time. For example, all academically gifted students will end up in advanced placement programs. All the students interested in volleyball will end up on the volleyball team together. It’s easy to imagine what happens:
Similarity amongst a group →
proximity amongst the group →
shared experiences and bonding amongst the group →
formation of a clique
Being Attracted to Each Other
As soon as a group gets together, the Hierarchy of Attraction exists. Immediately, everyone starts sending their Input of Energy towards the top. This means that the people at the top try to find each other first.
Interpersonal attraction → Input of Energy →
interaction → opportunities for friendship →
formation a clique
If you ever wondered why the popular clique is often made of the most Attractive (not just beautiful remember!) students, it is because of the pathway I wrote above.
The “Push” and “Pull” of Cliques
What makes cliques seem like fortresses that cannot be penetrated? There are two forces responsible:
- Students are motivated by themselves to be part of their clique.
- Cliques are motivated to choose only certain students.
One force comes from inside the student and the other force comes from outside the student.
The first force works like this: being with friends is simply better. It’s funner, easier, and more enjoyable. Because of this, students are motivated to be with their clique. You might call this the “pull” of cliques. Cliques “pull” students towards them.
Cliques can also “push” students from them. If the clique isn’t Attracted to a student, this is what they do. Everyone in the clique knows how to be mean to the person nobody wants as a friend. The student then feels as if they are being “pushed” from the clique.
Together, it is the push and pull of cliques that makes them unstoppable. Anywhere there are schools there will be cliques. If you want to experience the push and pull, go and sit with the wrong clique at lunch. I bet they will “push” you away by being a little cold and not including you. When they do this, I bet you will feel a “pull” to go back and sit with your own group
Clique Assimilations and Expulsions
Cliques aren’t just groups of friends. They can be strategic alliances. If a student doesn’t find their group of friends quickly, they can end up by themselves and alone. This would be miserable.
At the very beginning, most students spend time with a variety of groups before settling into a clique. The “push” and the “pull” of cliques make the whole process a lot like speeding dating. The student must be motivated to be part of a clique and the clique must be motivated to have them.
Even though cliques can be very slow to change, change does happen. Sometimes new members join and sometimes old members are kicked out. How and why are some students invited to join and other students kicked out? It’s pretty simple. People change, groups change, and situations change. As a result, the Friendship Cycle can start turning if the right things happen. For example, imagine a beautiful girl who is unpopular before going through puberty. Even after puberty, she stays really quite but that won’t matter. Puberty is going to make all the boys around her crazy because they will suddenly realize how pretty she is. After puberty, her place in the Hierarchy of Attraction will go up because all the boys will be in love with her. All of a sudden, this very pretty girl will get lots of Input of Energy. The popular girls’ clique is going to notice this and when they do, they will suddenly want to be friends with her. The pathway to her joining the clique will look like this:
Puberty → a change in the definition of Attractive →
a changing Hierarchy of Attraction →
new patterns of Input of Energy →
new experiences for the previously reserved girl →
common ground between her and the popular clique →
mutual attraction → clique assimilation
When one person gets kicked out of a clique, it is a very similar story. Something changes that makes them unattractive to one or more of the clique members. Imagine a girl who hates girly girl things. After puberty, her old clique gets interested in more feminine things, but she does not. Slowly, this dissimilarity builds and one day, she decided that she likes the tomboy clique more than the girly clique. She is no longer attracted to the girly clique and so the Friendship Cycle between her and them eventually stops. In the end, she will leave her first clique and end up in another completely different one.
If you want to understand where cliques come from, it’s the push and pull guided by being in the same place, being similar, and being attractive to each other.