Social Question

RandomGirl's avatar

They say the only person you can change is yourself. But when certain people are imbedded in your life and are frustrating you to no end, what can you do?

Asked by RandomGirl (3352 points ) January 30th, 2013

Say you’re in a group of people very unlike yourself (although they are in your age range).
The rest of the group doesn’t really acknowledge your existence.
They don’t talk to you or include you in anything.
You feel like the shunned kindergartener on the playground, again, for no reason at all.
But it’s more than the social aspect; the group meets for academic purposes, and they ruin it for the few who actually try to get something out of the meetings.
As much as this group frustrates you, you can’t leave. For one reason or another, these people are imbedded into your life and you can’t do anything about it.

What do you do?
Do you try to fit in?
Do you go with the flow, getting out of it what you can?
If there were a higher authority in this situation, would you go to the top?

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25 Answers

Shippy's avatar

I suspect this happens more than we think. Even in a family as a group for example. There comes a point in this situation when one has to let go. Whatever that means for you. You’ve used a study group here for an example. Letting go would be accepting that this dynamic is pretty uncomfortable for you. Or you feel in some way shunned. Apart from the obvious of saying try and reach out, to one member, or two on similar levels. I’d say accept it. Accept the goal is the important thing. Learning. Turn your focus back to the learning aspect. Become interested in the subject. That way you will be contributing by default. Common sharing does create a bond of sorts.

I have had this feeling with various people including family. Or extended family brought upon by my ex husband for example. So I went about managing the relationships. Standing back and becoming an objective viewer of the group dynamic. Life is a lot about managing people. Particularly the ones we find difficult.

Group dynamics can be difficult, they have their own internal dynamic. One has to see if this dynamic is helpful or not. Trying to fit in only works if it is of benefit to you, your higher self.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

My father died when I was pretty young. My mother, brother, and my sisters were into sports and gossip and stuff I was just not into.

I found out, through a random series of circumstance, that my dad had another child. She was into the novels of Philip K Dick, quantum physics, and ancient near eastern mythology. She was so like me it was disgusting. The rest of the family hated her, I was the only champion.

And I learned something from my hidden sister. She was interested. She looked at my brothers and sisters and wanted to hear about their crummy stupid infatuations with who was winning and who was losing in the Superbowl

I confronted her one time. I said. why do you pretend to care about this stuff?

She answered, it is important to them, and I want them to know I care about it too.

I realized, from this sister everyone hated but me, everyone in my family wished I cared about the things they thought were important. That I would make an effort to respect what they respected. I try to read the sports pages once a week or so now.

fremen_warrior's avatar

@RandomGirl sometimes you just happen upon a “rotten group” – people who seem to hate your guts for no apparent reason no matter what you do. Been there done that. Like @Shippy said, trying to fit in only works if you’re getting something out of it.

You mentioned this group meets for “academic” reasons. In that case become an expert in one of the things you’re involved in with them and they will have to listen sooner or later once you prove your worth.

People only value you for what they can get from you, be it knowledge, resources, or empathy.

augustlan's avatar

Would going to a higher authority have any chance of success, or is it likely to make things worse and leave you stuck in an even more untenable place? If the former, it can’t hurt to try.

If there is absolutely nothing you can do to get out of or change a situation, unfortunately there is little you can really do about it but to accept it as is. If you don’t get anything out of the meetings you must attend, bring along some homework, books, or study material and immerse yourself in your individual studies or interests while the rest of the group blathers on about other things.

rooeytoo's avatar

It is a fact of life, what you say, about yourself being the only person you can change. Trying to change others turns you into a manipulative and resentful person. You are hurting yourself by doing this. The next segment of the saying is that if you have a problem with someone, it is your problem. So once again the thing to do is go with the flow and don’t allow yourself to become annoyed or resentful. And, when you can, get the hell out of there and surround yourself with people who think as you do, then there is nothing to try to change!

AA has a list of affirmations called Just for Today, they are to help drunks stay on the wagon, one of them says:

Just for today, I will adjust myself to what is,
and not try to adjust everything to my own
desires. I will take my “luck” as it comes,
and fit myself to it.

Too many people today want to adjust everything to their own desires and in real life, it rarely works that way.

downtide's avatar

If you are talking about a school situation, and the others in the group are not pulling their weight academically, and this is affecting YOUR grades as a result, then yes you should tell someone in authority. Their laziness should not affect your grades.

For the rest of it, there’s really nothing you can do. You have a work career ahead of you and you are going to encounter this sort of thing almost everywhere. Office politics, believe me, is as bad as high-school politics. If not worse, because people in their 30s and 40s should have grown out of that kind of behaviour already.

The best thing you can do is knuckle down and focus 100% on the work. Don’t bother trying to “fit in”. People don’t change – or at least they do but the amount of time it takes means that you’ll have long left school before it happens.

You mentioned “the few who actually try to get something out of the meetings”. If there’s more than just you in that subset, you might want to arrange additional meetings with those people, without the disruptive ones, so that you can get more work done.

If leaving the group is impossible, all you can do is just tolerate them, do the work and look forward to the day when it’s all over and you never have to see them again. I don’t think it’s worth trying to be socially accepted by them or develop friendships with them. It honestly sounds like they’re not the type of people you’d want to be friends with anyway. Look for social acceptance elsewhere instead.

JLeslie's avatar

I need more information to answer this question. I agree that if this is affecting your grades you should do something about it. However, sometimes in these situations it could be you are going to get an A, because sometimes the caddy group is still very good at their schoolwork, they just take the lead and don’t listen to anyone else.

If this has nothing to do with grades, and they are leaving you out and it is basically a mean girl situation, I say stop caring. If you can plan other things and not be with them do it. When you are with them, smile, say hello, and then be independent of them even in the same room. Remove your emotions of wanting them to play with you in the schoolyard. Many times when we let go of feeling shunned, all of a sudden we become the magnet for attention.

Don’t let them do it to you! They make you feel small so they can feel big, but when you are big on your own the tables turn.

Instead of feeling hurt, be pissed off they are such horrible people who feel just fine about excluding others. I don’t mean you have to be hateful or hold a grudge if they finally come around.

What do you do when you are with them. Do you try to be part of the conversation? Do you sit in a corner? Are you argumentative? Passive? Change how you frame the situation and it will change your actions, your posture, your expressions, and in turn it will change them most likely. They will react to you differently, which means acting differently. I don’t mean you have to think about how to act to get them to be nice to you. No. That is too much time spent wasted on them and bending yourself into a pretzel. All I mean is move away from wanting their attention, and the rest will happen naturally.

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought But your family didn’t like your sister. She made that very nice effort, and they didn’t appreciate it. I agree with those we love and care about being connected with we should make efforts to be interested in what they are interested in. But, it should be reciprocated, or at minimum appreciated. They don’t seem to appreciate her efforts at all.

ucme's avatar

I believe the well worn phrase is “don’t let the bastards drag you down.”

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@JLeslie They never had liked me either. :)

JLeslie's avatar

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought I realize that. I am saying you both now are willing to make an effort, and they still don’t really do much to meet you halfway or show appreciation for your efforts. Or, am I misunderstanding? It seemed like you were advising the OP to show some interest in what the other girls are interested in, and for family I can see doing it to get along and maintain ties, but with this situation I am not so sure. It’s hard to know since we don’t know all the details.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@JLeslie Thank you for digging into this. A lot of people do not ask questions because they imagine they can imagine what things are like. They do not want to make others experience bad experiences again.

A lot of people see this as a lack of experience, when nothing could be further than the truth

Self_Consuming_Cannibal's avatar

Maybe you should think of your situation like this next time you’re being ignored and realize you could do some real damage if you choose to do so. lol

JLeslie's avatar

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought Are you saying I am making you re-experience something bad and I should know better not to ask a question? I’m confused. If so, I apologize if I did anything to upset you.

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
marinelife's avatar

I would keep the exchanges to the social minimum and get to work. Get as much out of it as you can. Ignore them.

RandomGirl's avatar

I’m very glad to say that I’ve gotten over the whole social acceptance thing here. I’ve realized that they are not my friends, and I’m not theirs. That’s ok. I tried that for about 4 years, and it was exhausting. Now I’ve moved on to my real friends – the ones who couldn’t care less about football, movie stars, or the Emmy awards. I wish I could convince the group to shut up and listen. But that’s not going to happen.

geeky_mama's avatar

Oh @RandomGirl – you could be my daughter.
My oldest, who is a Sophomore, goes to a school where the kids are the children of wealthy rednecks. They prize athleticism, fake tans and wealth over all other things, or so it seems. The girls at her school wear Yoga pants and tank tops and hoodies with their Uggs or Flip Flops (when it’s literally -10F outside) and giggle about how drunk they got in La Playa (a place a lot of Minnesotans go on vacation in Jan/Feb to escape the cold).

This is SO not my daughter. She could care less about Football Game, Boys Hockey or where to get a great spray tan. She hates it at her school and despite a few good friends and some good teachers (some good, some not so good) she really can’t and won’t fit in at her school. She finds herself Skype-ing with a teenage friend in France who shares her interests in Hetalia as a metaphor for geo-political posturing and history. She learns German and Russian and French..for fun, and looks forward to traveling to Europe again.

I’ll give you the same advice I gave her:

Your people are out there.
You just have to survive this hideous time surrounded by people who are literally at the peak of their life…in this insipid, narrow-minded world called High School.
You will move on to University, a bigger city or a new place..and you will find YOUR people.
They will be interesting to talk to, share your interests and value your thoughts and opinions. They will LISTEN to you.
You will be able to move on, grow and learn..and look back at pity at the people who are still talking about that one great Football touchdown..or how good they looked at Prom.
Some of these folks that you can’t relate to will also go on to college..but you’ll find that you won’t care about being socially accepted by them and that you’ll be quite content in your new circle of friends and acquaintances.
The world is SO big..just hang on for a little while longer till you can explore & find people who share your interests.

RandomGirl's avatar

@geeky_mama haha I live in MN, I know about escaping the cold this time of year…

Anyway. Yes, your daughter is just like me! Good to know there are people out there like me! :)
I’m also glad I only have two years of this left, and I actually get to take college classes in those years. I should be able to branch out and find “my people” then. I can’t wait.

KNOWITALL's avatar

If they are wasting your time and everyone else’s at mandatory meetings, I absolutely would tell the supervisor that you feel the group needs some structure and possibly supervision.

There’s no point trying to fit in with ding-dong’s, especially if the effort is more than you’d gain.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

@RandomGirl You say that you’re in a group, but that the members of this group ignore, exclude, and don’t acknowledge you. It seems that you’re not in a group at all; there may, indeed, be a group that exists, but you’re not a part of it.

You also say that you can’t leave the group. Unless I’m missing some key information, I don’t think that staying or leaving are options that you need to consider. You’re already not a member of this group.

RandomGirl's avatar

@PaulSadieMartin: The definitions of who’s in the group and who’s not has nothing to do with whether or not the kids like each other.

antimatter's avatar

For starters I think you are a bit thick skinned, you can see that you are not welcome and yet you still want to be a part of the pack that does not acknowledge your existence. It’s a waste of time to seek their approval and it will only crack your self confidence and leave you with a insignificant feeling. My best advise is simple, they don’t deserve you so go find a pack that will accept you.

Adagio's avatar

@rooeytoo I really like the quote from AA, it could serve me very well at times so I’ve copied it and will read it from time to time, thanks.

burntbonez's avatar

Changing a group is probably the most difficult thing you can do. You do it by interacting with everyone and modeling the behavior you want them to follow, too. You are consistent in how you treat them. You are always positive. Never criticize. You simply lead by modeling the behavior you want to see.

If it works, it will work because they see you doing things in a way they can admire and copy. If it doesn’t work, it will be because you have become negative or because the way you model is not seen as good by others.

That’s how you do it. Whether you want to do it or not is another issue.

rooeytoo's avatar

@Adagio – reading them all is a good way to start your day. You can see the whole list here.

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