When we talk about belonging perhaps what comes to mind most immediately is our own experiences of being left out. All the times we have felt like the only person in the world on the outskirts of the clique. However, there is also a certain amount of accountability that needs to come into the conversation about belonging.
As the feeling of being left out of social groups is really common, then surely, we ourselves may have been responsible for this at some point. I’m not suggesting we are all horrible people. What I want to focus on in this post is group mentality.
I went to a picnic this week. It was at a toddler group and I arrived late. My toddler really enjoys picking up every rock and stone we walk past so despite my best intentions, we were late. When we arrived, the picnic was already set up and everyone was settled on a couple of picnic blankets with all the shared food laid out in the middle. Everybody looked at us. Nobody moved. Nobody even tried to squidge over even remotely. There was nowhere for my 2 yr/o to sit and I started to feel slightly stupid when the organiser of the group jumped up and invited me to take her spot.
It was a squish for room there’s no doubt about it, but what had essentially happened there is a great example of group mentality. Because nobody else made an effort to budge over they each felt they didn’t have to either. It was a sort of group thought of ‘we are settled, you are late, that’s your problem.’
I must say, this is a lovely group that we go to often and everybody is always very lovely and friendly. This scenario played for about 3 minutes in total before we were sat down and joining in. It’s just this one instance got my brain ticking over about how we all have to have some accountability when it comes to belonging.
If I had approached each person in that group individually afterwards and asked why they didn’t try to make some space for my little boy to join in I’m sure the big majority of them would be mortified when they thought about it. When they realised how it would have made them feel if it were them and their toddler who was late. If everyone or even a few people had moved around we all could have fit on the blankets. What got me thinking is that fact that we have probably all displayed similar behaviour at some point and maybe not thought much of it or not even realised.
Which Are You?
This group mentality translates across all areas of life. The dinner table at high school, the full meeting room when somebody arrives late and there are no chairs left. Would you be the person who gets up and fetches a chair, or helps the person find one? Would you be the person on the bench to budge over at the park when you see a mum with a pram looking for somewhere to perch to feed her baby? Or would you be the person to continue sitting in the middle of the bench reading your book pretending not to notice? Or the person looking up at the flustered late colleague thinking ‘more fool you for being late, I’m settled.’?
Group mentality is so easy to fall into. It’s part of a survival instinct buried deep within our amygdala. But there is no need for it in our day to day situations. And just because everyone is acting a certain way does not mean it’s the right way to act. Be the person who gets the chair, budges over on the blanket or says hello to the only person in the room not talking to somebody. Shift the group mentality. Challenge it at every opportunity.
If you liked this post you will like this one about not fitting in. As always feel free to leave a comment below and let me know if you have ever been affected by a group mentality.