Rejected By the Group? It’s NOT Your Imagination. Here’s Why

Have you ever felt that your ideas are being rejected at work or in a social situation because you are new to the group and considered an outsider? Well, you are probably not imagining it – it’s likely to be true, according to a couple of studies I found.

When I was a kid I went to quite a few schools – something like five or six of them before I hit ten years old. I was an outgoing kid who liked to speak up in class, and I usually had no trouble making friends – after a while. I noticed that when I first found myself in a new class, with unfamiliar kids, I would be looked upon very suspiciously by the other children – at first.

I’d raise my hand to answer a question or make a comment and often I would hear imaginary crickets in my head, like in those old cartoons. No one cared what I had to say, my ideas were strange, and I was not to be listened to.

After a few months (or weeks, I’m not sure) I would find that I’d be accepted by my new class, and my ideas were listened to more. By year’s end I would have made a few friends and felt like a regular part of the class; I blended in and my answers and ideas were as valued as anyone else’s.

Then it would be time for me to go to another school, and I’d again, find myself the new kid in class – and again, my ideas would be regarded with great skepticism – the very same ideas that had been well-regarded in my last class – what was going on?

this is a rejection letter

Groups reject outsiders

There have been some studies that show that outsiders are definitely rejected by a group – that is – until they have been integrated into the group. This affects us at work, at school and in social situations.

I looked at a study called Being left out: rejecting outsiders and communicating group boundaries in childhood and adolescent peer groups.

This study looked at the peer group experiences of children and adolescents, and looked at over 600 kids. What the study found was that it really is significantly important to gain entry to your peer group – as rejection affects how you go on to live your life – your feelings of self-worth, your social skills and your concept of yourself and your place in the world.

The 5 Strategies of rejection

So what happens if you are not accepted by your peer group? According to the study, there are five strategies peer groups used to communicate rejection

  1. Ignoring
  2. Disqualifying
  3. Insulting
  4. Blaming
  5. Creating New Rules

Rejection causes stress, social problems

The study also found that there were certain types of people that became more stressed when they were rejected: “Rejection was stressful for observers as well as rejectees, with females, Caucasians, and regularly‐excluded students reporting highest levels. Females and those frequently rejected reported the most stress when observing the rejection of others.”

Another thing the study concluded was that no matter what ideas a new person was trying to put on the table, these would be rejected even if they fit the norm of the group: “For outsiders who wish to promote positive change and reform in a group culture, this leads to a somewhat depressing conclusion: their message is likely to be rejected regardless of whether it is objectively ‘right’, well-considered, well-justified, or well-argued.”

It hurts more to be criticized by your group

I found another study which supports this. It’s called Shooting the messenger: Outsiders critical of your group are rejected regardless of argument quality. This was done by the University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland, Australia.

The study concluded that, “People are more resistant to criticisms of their group when those criticisms are made by an outgroup rather than an ingroup member, a phenomenon referred to as the intergroup sensitivity effect.”

The solution?

Well, it’s not particularly encouraging. In order to be accepted by a group and have your ideas be given the same weight as the rest of the group, you must first integrate into the group. This is done by playing by the group’s rules and fitting in, usually for an extended period of time.

Have you experienced this phenomenon when trying to integrate into a new group? Please let me know!

Photos by Joker Venom and Mouse thanks!


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