Tag Archives: Social Dynamics

How Group Roles and Group Diversity Affect Group Longevitity

I was having lunch with a friend recently, a friend that I hadn’t seen in quite a while. It is one of those friendships that you can pick up where you left off, sometimes after a few years even. Other friendships are different.

With those, you need to constantly give them attention or they will die on their own. Of course both kinds are valuable, and both have their own set of benefits. Some are contextual, some are dependent on the time or the situation, and others are dependent on a shared workplace.

I remember once I was waiting in line at a big bookstore to get a copy of a new book signed by a famous author, who was also a TV personality. If you wanted to get your book signed, you had to show up to the bookstore twice. Once in the morning to line up to get a number, and then later that afternoon to line up according to the number you got. They gave out the numbers in order, so you essentially lined up in the same order from the morning.

Which made for an interesting situation. I suddenly made friends with the people standing in line around me. We were there for the same purpose, and because we all left at the same time, and we knew we were all coming back to the same place as the same time, it kind of gave it an “instant friendship” feeling to it. Shared purpose, shared interests, an inherent plan to meet back later at the same place.

It was really strange the way it unfolded. We all said our goodbyes in the morning, and each went off to our jobs. Later that afternoon, we all greeted each other as if were old buddies. There were about six of us. And as we slowly wound our way around the bookstore, we talked about various things that you usually talk about on a first date. Family background, interests, hobbies etc.

And when we got to the front something else interesting happened. They were letting people in by groups, based on their own counting system. Their counting system didn’t consider that people had formed their own “cliques” while waiting in line.

When our turn came, only half of us were called to go in, and the other half had to wait for the next “group.” One of the girls in our “group” gave the bookstore guy a sad look and said “But we’re together,” and motioned to our newly formed group.

He acquiesced, and let us in. We proceeded to shift through the line together, inside the bookstore, closer and closer to the superstar whose autograph we wanted. As our excitement grew, a couple people suggested getting drinks afterwards, or other plans involving restaurants and activities.

But then something totally unexpected happened that really surprised me. As soon as we all got our autographs, the purpose for our group completely and utterly vanished. All the idle chitchat we’d shared lost its importance, as we no longer had a common purpose.

We suddenly found ourselves looking at each other, likely all thinking the same thing. “Wait, who are you people again?” Or something along those lines. We all mumbled a quick and robotic, “uh, see you,” and quickly went our different ways.

I’m pretty sure that I forgot all those people’s names within an hour after leaving, as I’m sure they did mine. And I seriously doubt that if I ever ran into them again, we’d recognize each other.

Now, I’m sure you have friends, good friends, which you met in places while standing in line, or waiting for something. That happens all the time. But when that does happen, it is because you had something in common, and “clicked” personality wise because of reasons other than what you were waiting for.

The “group” I found myself in, we had absolutely nothing in common, at all, except that we were all waiting for an autograph from a famous TV personality/author. As soon as that reason vanished, so did our group.

But it sure was fun while it lasted, and it did pass the time quite quickly while we were waiting, serving a valuable purpose.

I think the only time people get into trouble is when we expect more from a relationship or a friendship that it can provide for us.