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Faith WoodIf you have ever been part of the leadership of a board, you have no doubt heard the complaint that your group is too cliquey.

A Clique is any small group of people, with shared interests or other features in common, who spend time together and do not readily allow others to join them.

This is such a common complaint. I can only guess at how many hours have been spent discussing how to eradicate this perception.

But, is the clique belief a reality?

Well it could be. After all, we humans strive for a place to belong. We enjoy like-minded folks and familiar faces – it creates a comfort zone of sorts. There is real comfort in finding a tribe that accepts us.

When presenting ourselves to a new group, we sometimes think to ourselves “Nope – these are not my people”. At other times we want to be part of the inner circle so badly that we are left wondering . . . is there something about me that’s just not cool enough for the cool kids?

It pretty much sucks to not feel included when you want to be so desperately. And when we don’t feel welcomed, it is even easier to assume that the group is simply too cliquey for us to break into.

As a child, I always had a fall back position when I found myself feeling like an outsider: I grew up as a twin – an instant friend! This likely nurtured a more reserved attitude than was useful to me later in life though.

I have definitely felt invisible within a new group until I pushed myself to get more involved. Yep, I hate that! It is so much easier when someone I already know, like and trust includes me in their established group – it’s like having a twin replacement.

I like to think of myself as being community oriented. When attending a meeting, I put up a big smile and extend my hand, especially to newcomers. But there are times (such as at a conference) where I am so eager to connect with fellow colleagues that I may neglect all the new folks waiting to be introduced. It’s not intentionally cliquey behaviour.

So if you have ever felt like the new kid on the block, may I make a couple of humble recommendations (from my own experience)?

  1. If you want to be part of the inner circle, get involved and contribute quickly. This could be in the form of working the welcome table or serving in some other capacity. By working alongside other givers in the community, you will have many more opportunities to really get to know the leaders and they you.
  2. When you are “the new kid,” you have to put yourself out there. Say hi to people; connect; be curious about who they are and what they value most, share your ideas and be helpful. When a social event is organized – GO! (even if you are feeling shy because you don’t know anyone).
  3. Be cheerful and focus on being a source of positive uplifting energy whenever you get a chance. Leaning against the proverbial wall will not help your quest to be included.
  4. Stop complaining about the group being too cliquey – evaluate your own efforts honestly. We attract what we open our self up to, so if you want to be approached, make sure you’re approachable.

Soon you will have made so many fabulous connections that others will be complaining how you and your group are “too cliquey”.

Troy Media columnist Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications. 


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