Is excluding people just not on?

March 11, 2013

in Friendship, Two of us

Tea plate

We recently made two new friends (I hope… I trust..). We met them at supper at another friend’s house and since then we have all continued to meet as a group. This has been great.

But I think that you can’t really get to know someone and solidify a friendship within a group. Perhaps you could over years? But conversations amongst six or so people are different than one to ones or even between two couples. And these are two people I’d like to get to know better and, I suppose what I’m saying is – deeper. I want to give them more attention, discover more about them, focus the talk more. So I’m thinking we’ll invite the two of them over sometime. Fine.

Now here’s the second ‘but’ – that leaves our other friends out. I hate being left out – the mere idea takes me back to the traumas of the playground. So I also hate the idea of leaving other people out. And maybe being left out too – maybe they will also get together with the others and not invite us? Ouch?

I think it might help if I let everyone in on my dilemma, so that everyone understands and so, I hope, won’t feel bad. And maybe if they invited each other and excluded us they might be kind and let us know in a tactful, low-key way….

One good way to get there might be to blog about it and send everyone a link to the post….– now, there’s a plan…

But I really also want to know what other people think about this. Am I just being super sensitive? Or am I being horrible to even think of breaking up the happy gatherings into different configurations? Or – maybe no-one can even see that there might be an issue?

lustre jug copyright Anne Wareham

Janet Stewart March 23, 2013 at 8:51 am

Thank you Anne for raising this subject, something I’ve been pondering on and wrestling with for a long time.
I see no problm with making new friends, being ‘friends of friends’ and spending time with them separately but I do feel it’s important to let the other couple/friends know. Hurt comes into it when arrangements are made behind people’s backs and they get to hear about it either after the event without having the slightest inkling that it was taking place.
Lots of people mention ‘we are adults’ but as much as you have more life experience and knowledge for a great many of us how we feel is still tied up to our childhood and experiences from that time, those are not easy things to shake off just by being an adult. I do so admire people who can live their life as black and white and with no grey areas in between.
If you are close friends with the other couple I’m sure it will not be an issue if you say you’d like to invite or spend time with this other couple, I’m pretty sure they’d be happy hat you have found their friends of great interest. The difficulty arises if you then spend moe time with this new couple and not the same amount of time as you used to with your older friends. Some people are secure enough in themselves for it not to concern them, others not so.
As ever I believe it’s all about communication and if you are great friends you should be able to talk with them about anything and take their view on board, you may not always agree with what they have to say but at least everyone would know where the other stands.

anne March 23, 2013 at 9:52 am

I think that’s right – open, thoughtful communication is the best we can do. Apart from that it is all a bit in the lap of the gods – my closest friend was introduced to me by someone whose friendship with either of us never quite took off, though it’s still extant.Wonder how she feels about it – she often asks after our relationship…

I seem to specialise in an interest in the ‘grey bits in between’ and I find the black and white people a bit shocking!


Julia March 16, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Tantalising images Ann – could you divulge a little info on why you chose them and what they are. This info may be one and the same. Would like to use ‘!’ but . . .
I would say also that friends of friends are just that. On the odd occasion, ‘fixing up’ works but it shouldn’t be expected – it can lead to ‘oh no, why on earth do they think I’d like them’ and sort of ruin the original friendship – experience speaks. I agree with Jen on the ‘if you found yourself left out’ issue – all fate and all good. Move on.

anne March 16, 2013 at 3:32 pm

The images are all things from around our house – I think I will start captioning them, but if you do the mouse stroke over them I think most of them say something. Resolution: will do better.

This post seems to have opened up the discussion in all the right places and all the friends involved have responded, and responded sympathetically. I think good times are on the cards for all of us in different combinations and also all together. Delighted. Plus all these interesting contributions…

Alice March 13, 2013 at 10:38 am

This struck a chord. I find groups overwhelming, I can’t focus on anyone so I feel that I’m failing them; for me, the fewer the better. But equally I share your ‘Ouch’. And, worse, what if my friends then preferred each other to me?! Arrgh. No, much better to keep everyone together, no soldier left behind etc, no one gets hurt. Except…
I like your solution: to set down the dilemma (and I like that others have the same dilemma too, windows onto their anxieties). I’ve a friend who says this: when his friends become friends with each other he feels he’s succeeded; he doesn’t have children so this is his family tree if you like, lateral rather than vertical. But then he also confesses that he worries about being left out. So no easy answer there then!

anne March 13, 2013 at 11:27 am

O, yes – “And, worse, what if my friends then preferred each other to me?” – that’s definitely a part of the problem too!!

There are no easy answers, but it’s worth navigating (hurtlessly if possible) I think, for the joys a network bring. I do love to be able to really engage with people and that means less people; I also love the group ‘buzz’ of a group enjoying themselves together,- and I love it when my friends’ lives are enriched by knowing and loving each other too.

So no easy answers but worth finding ways…

And – what would it be like if one of the group had turned out to be a real bore?? O, the issues! (thankfully on this occasion, not an issue we had!)


James Hardiman September 8, 2013 at 10:38 am

I was an only child and had difficult parents, and grew up without learning the skills of talking in social groups. In a group of six I would be silent: here I am at age 65 and I still don’t know how to “bid for airtime”.

So if I were part of that group I would be *delighted* if you wanted to get to know me better.

Have you thought of all going for a walk together? Six people walking won’t walk and talk as a crowd, but will form and reform in sub-groups. That way no-one is excluded and it will all happen in a natural way, I think.

anne September 8, 2013 at 11:28 am

That’s a great idea, James. Hits the spot – keeps a good flexibility..

Faisal Grant March 12, 2013 at 11:01 am

Anne, you sort of have to go with what feels right, even if that might mean breaking ties. I know what you mean, it’s all brought into focus now with electronic media, how there are some people you’re close to, others you’d rather not know, some who are OK, and some you rather just got on with their own life.
Me, like a dog, I find it difficult to whip the knife out, and wag my tail at everyone. However, there’s nothing wrong with emphasizing your self-hood and its need to have its own space.
You cannot please all of the people all of the time…

anne March 12, 2013 at 11:06 am

This is all about NOT breaking ties.. I will continue to try to please everyone all the time, especially my friends, while noting that it is a fool’s game!

Faisal Grant March 12, 2013 at 11:56 am

Well said.

J M Sherry March 12, 2013 at 8:44 am

I’m with you on your first thoughts – being left out reminds me of school-days & how upset I was if left out of anything, with the result that I try never to do that in adulthood. You can talk “logic” to yourself all you like and you might even think that you have persuaded yourself that it’s ok to do it, but the reality is that you won’t manage to over-ride your “gut feeling” and will be left with a feeling of guilt, the need to give complex explanations to the left-out friends, and I doubt you’d enjoy the evening much either.
We have a number of friends we have met through other friends; we enjoy their company but always as 6 (ie all 3 couples); to meet the friends of friends without the original friends would feel to me almost like trying to steal friends!

anne March 12, 2013 at 9:54 am

“Steal friends” – that’s the kind of underlying notion..but that shouldn’t be possible, should it?? There ought to be enough of all the good things to keep everyone happy. We hope!

J M Sherry March 12, 2013 at 11:00 am

Ah but human nature doesn’t always “allow” what perhaps ought to be!

anne March 12, 2013 at 11:05 am


Bridget March 12, 2013 at 7:42 am

I really struggle with this too. It’s not just about wanting to know people better, it’s also about creating different mixes of people around the table, and you can’t always have everyone.
Perhaps the answer, which I sometimes use and sometimes forget, is to tell the other initial members of the group that you want to do this important thing….

anne March 12, 2013 at 9:51 am

Yes. I think open communication is the answer. XXX

Debs March 12, 2013 at 7:31 am

We have a circle of friends, about four couples, who regularly dine together. The boys take little trips together. Still we see each couple separately,too. It’s a matter of timing. Everyone understands and no one takes offence. The dynamics of a group is much different from the interaction between two couples. We all appreciate each other more, know each other better from these more intimate gatherings. Try meeting for lunch or just having coffee or tea. It’s not a betrayal of old friends, it’s cultivating new ones. It’s easy to feel pressured by peer groups but we are all adults now and should be free to enjoy the company of others. Be brave, be kind and it will be OK!

anne March 12, 2013 at 9:56 am

Yep, that’s where I hope we’ll arrive. A great, mutually supportive, happy group. Yea!

Paul Steer March 11, 2013 at 10:21 pm

Not taking offence, now that would be a great personal attribute worthy of cultivation.
I am still working on it. I think it relates to our individual sense of worth, which is built up in layers over years. I struggle with this aspect of living the human life. We all have this deep seated need to feel approved of by others. I suppose if your friendships are strong/deep, then there will be no problem. It is impossible to please everyone, we all know this but strangely still attempt to !

anne March 11, 2013 at 11:24 pm

I had thought hurt rather than offended. That’s a whole big thing in itself, as you suggest..
And we do believe we might succeed in pleasing everyone, don’t we, if we try hard enough???

Paul Steer March 12, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Ah yes, there is a big difference between hurt and offended. If the relationships are strong, then the hurt would pass. I think trying hard to please everyone is a road to ruin. I have tried it and it damn near killed me. But in this context I don’t think it will come to that !

anne March 12, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Maybe the trick is to get rid of those people who like to take offence?!

Jen Herrington March 11, 2013 at 7:32 pm

I’m going to be brutal and say that life is to short to worry too too much about this kind of thing. Living in an incredibly sociable almost incestuous village ourselves we just have to ‘leave people out’ otherwise we’d be catering for the masses. We are all grown ups and realise that sometimes not everyone can be included. It works both ways I’m sure. It doesn’t mean you love them any less it’s just a fact of life. But then I am not that fussed (well not that much 😉 if I am left out and sometimes it’s a blessing!

anne March 11, 2013 at 7:43 pm

Ah…I would never live in a village!

Nic March 11, 2013 at 7:29 pm

Not as sorry as my husband 😉

anne March 11, 2013 at 7:30 pm


Nic March 11, 2013 at 4:48 pm

Well, I can understand why you’d want to do it – but I don’t think you can without upsetting someone a little bit. These things can happen naturally though. Do you invite and all work out a best date between you when you’re all available? Perhaps you could say a specific date you’re doing something, and let things take a natural course – not everybody will be able to make every date. What you say about the traumas of the playground runs quite close to the surface in many and it is all too easy to offend.

I’m currently offended by a ‘leaving out’ unfortunately perpetrated by my husband which is causing us all kinds of bother.

anne March 11, 2013 at 6:04 pm

Ah – thanks: that does make me feel less ‘over sensitive’. And so sorry to hear of your offendedness..

Previous post:

Next post: