Talk to any middle school or high school girls and they will tell you about the power of inclusion and exclusion. Today, girls are guided by their ability to connect to a group, and they have an intense need to feel that they belong.
Many classic clinical research projects have focused on the issues of inclusion and exclusion. We know that these attachments are essential elements in formation of self esteem and self worth and the lack of such connections can be devastating and sometimes fatal. Here’s a look at the powerful force created when friendship collides with inclusion & exclusion.
What’s different about boys and girls relationships regarding inclusion and exclusion?
- Boys don’t “need” groups as much as girls.
- Boys typically use physical aggression vs. indirect methods of exclusion.
- Girls typically use indirect methods of “non-physical” violence related to inclusion and exclusion as a means of violence and harm.
- Girls are extremely concerned about issues of inclusion and every girl knows the power that inclusion holds in their relational world.
What are typical forms of “aggressive behavior” for girls?
- Relational aggression — harm or threat of damage to relationships through acceptance or inclusion. People can use ignoring, excluding for revenge, expulsion, body language, or sabotage as a means of relational aggression.
- Indirect aggression — the perpetrator avoids confronting the girl and makes it look like there is no intent to harm. Many times this includes rumors as a method of aggression. Indirect aggression can be used in social media as a format for isolating the targeted individual.
- Social aggression — intended to damage self-esteem or social status within a group. This can include indirect aggression but the key is the power of the social aspect of enlarging the circle of friends who shun or deny power to the girl who is being targeted. When this tactic is utilized it is difficult for the target to compete with the power of the group dynamics who are set to “bring her down.”
Movies such as Lindsay Lohan’s “Mean Girls” describe the roles we typically see in girl’s groups or cliques. Here is an overview of some of the personality types we typically see manifest in teens.
- Queen Bee — person who reigns supreme over the others and weakens friendships with others. She holds the strength and influence and friends do what she wants and her court feels anointed by this special friend.
- Sidekick or second in control — This person’s power depends on the confidence and connection they attain from the Queen. Inclusion as the chosen sidekick gives them power.
- Banker — This is the person who holds information, which is currency in the girl world. Bankers hold information and use it strategically for her benefit and control. This person is almost as powerful as the queen bee because they hold secrets that can take down anyone who is in power.
- Floater — This girl can associate with more than one group. She moves freely from group to group and has protective qualities that keep her from being a target (cute, smart, etc.). People like her and she is nice to everyone.
- Torn bystander — This girl is caught between what’s right and what gains inclusion. She feels caught in the middle, and will apologize or rationalize behaviors even though she knows it is wrong. For her inclusion has a higher value than doing what is morally correct.
- Pleaser/wannabee/ messenger — This is a someone on the perimeter trying to get in the cool group. They will do anything to be in good graces and become included. This girl is willing to mimic the queen and is willing to do dirty work for them to attain acceptance.
- Target — This girl is the one that is targeted to be humiliated made fun of in any and all situations. She is isolated and feels helpless.
Here are some suggestions if you know someone who is experiencing issues with inclusion and exclusion:
- Help them find groups where they can be themselves without fear or shame.
Speak openly about your concerns and open the conversation to discussions about inclusion and exclusion.
- Use your own experiences to help the young girl understand the power of exclusion and discuss how you successfully handled these issues in your life.
- Help the girl get involved in new activities which value her contributions versus groups that focus on money, looks or clothing.
- Reassure your friends that their friendship is important to you and that you will not abandon them. When people feel safe, they will flourish in the relationship.
- Teach your daughter and others the skills of conflict management. Most young girls don’t have the skillset of coping strategies to deal with bullying and shaming.
- Teach girls to listen to their own inner voice. Being part of a group is important, but if you lose yourself it is certain that you will always be looking for someone else to create your happiness.
- Teach your daughter to be someone who refuses to be a part of any forms of gossip, rumor spreading, or relational aggression. It is important that she understands that these behaviors are part of bullying and destructive mechanisms for manipulation and power.
Lastly, remember that inclusion and exclusion continues into adulthood. You have the power to change the world and be the force that manifests inclusion.
This article was written by Dr. Joy Miller PhD, LCPC from the Joy Miller & Associates Private Practice. Are you a therapist interested in having your article published on our blog? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.