Girls’ friendships and navigating group dynamics

“I was hoping you could please share some tips on how to manage group dynamics in our year group. There are approximately fifty girls in our year and things are not always peaceful between us. Can you please give some tips on how to nurture healthy and harmonious relationships? And also share some insight as to whether or not secondary school relationships have any bearing later on in life?”

As a former teacher with 3 daughters, I know exactly what you are talking about!!! Having attended an all -girls school myself, I also remember how very complicated girl cliques could be, with each girl unconsciously playing a role. I fear these issues are magnified even more by social media: the number of ‘likes’ you get for reassurance that you fit in, look good, have the right friends, attend the cool things. Also throw in constantly comparing, FOMO etc.

My advice to navigate friendships:

• Friendships should be defined by being open, kind, supportive, trustworthy and caring not through power or social status. True friends are those with whom you feel unconditionally accepted, understood and sometimes challenged if you are doing something wrong.

• Don’t be exclusively tied to one group of girls.

• Always have the confidence to stand up for what you believe in, your peer group will ultimately respect you more.

• Don’t sacrifice your own personal boundaries just to please others.

• Try not to get drawn into drama and idle gossip. Technology massively increases the power and damage of gossip.

• It is more important to be true to yourself then just fit in. Don’t focus too much on having the right look (clothes, hair).

• If you see someone else being mistreated in person or on social media, stand up for them.

• Help others feel included and welcome, rather than making yourself feel superior.

• Always be open and communicative, especially if a friend has upset you. Don’t let things fester. When you approach the person try to do it respectfully, without anger or blame – just explain the situation and how you feel about it.

• Be prepared to apologise and accept apologies – always listen, even when it’s not easy to hear.

• Find a trusted adult you can talk to for advice if you are ever unsure how to manage a situation. Identify when things have got out of hand and do something about it.

Admittedly none of this advice is easy to follow and it may feel lonely at times. The only person you can control is yourself.

I just recently read a fascinating book called ‘Popular: Why being liked is the secret to success.’ Popularity impacts enormously on your overall self -esteem and long-term happiness. However there is more than one type of popularity. It is not referring to ‘status’ where someone is well known, widely emulated and able to bend others to his/her will but ‘likeability’ – a person we are close to, trust and who we feel happy spending time with.

M.Prinstein quite rightly states that

“Choosing likeability is not always an easy option in a world so obsessed with status… but doing so opens the door to a far happier life”.

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