The Unspoken Rule of Social Groups

Social Groups article
May 9, 2020

Have you ever been part of a group? I would bet that you have. All of us are parts of different groups whether it be business, civic, social, community, religion, etc. These groups may be three people or thousands of people. The larger groups typically have written guidelines and rules for the members to follow, but what about those smaller groups? Maybe it’s an informal group that’s been formed over time. How (or should) you create guidelines and rules for them? Yes. I also think setting expectations is good too. Typically, you don’t go into a group like this thinking about it. I’ve been guilty of this very thing which leads me to writing this blog.

I have been part of several organically grown social groups throughout my lifetime. I think there are some unspoken rules to these social groups to maintain the integrity of the group. I also think, looking back, there should be some expectations set after the first few gatherings, so everyone understands what the expectations are for the group. The unspoken rules and expectations should be one and the same.

Inclusion or Exclusivity

If you have met with the same group 4-6 times, I would say this is an exclusive group to that group of people. If someone wants to invite others into the group, then the discussion needs to occur to set those ground rules on allowing new people into the group. What’s the purpose of the group? What is each person getting out of the group? Knowing these things will help, but many times these conversations aren’t held until someone new joins the group.


Everyone goes through tough times and needs to be heard by their circle of friends. Venting helps one work through something tough and makes you feel better. On the other hand, you need to be aware of how much you are talking vs. listening. Over the course of 6-8 interactions, the amount of listening and talking should be equal. Let’s face it, sometimes we all just need to shut up and listen. You shouldn’t look back and think that you dominated many of the conversations in those gatherings. That’s not good for anyone. That’s not a friend.

Split Up the Tab

With circles of friends, sometimes it’s hard to know how to handle the bill. Typically, everyone pays their own way. Sometimes these groups meet at restaurants, bars, libraries, and coffee shops, while others may rotate between individual’s houses. However it’s handled, it should be split eventually from a cost standpoint so no one is burdened with the cost every time. If someone hosts, then everyone brings something so the host only has one job — to host.


This group of individuals is obviously important to you. Support them in whatever they are going through. You may not 100% agree with their decisions sometimes, but being a supportive friend in the good times and bad is what good friends do. Be their cheerleader even when they aren’t around. Highlight their strong characteristics and what makes them a good person and friend.


Timing can be applied in a couple different ways. For instance, timing on how often your group meets and how it works with everyone’s schedule. Do you meet over coffee, lunch, or evening? What works for everyone in the group? It’s important to establish a timeline. Timing is also about having crucial conversations with the group at the right time. If there is something to be discussed, the timing to discuss it with the group must be right. It may be uncomfortable, but timing the conversation correctly is instrumental to how the solution will be resolved.


With smaller groups (3-5 people), it’s usually easier to find a time that works with everyone’s schedule. If someone can’t make it, do you reschedule? Those are expectations that should be addressed with the group.

Having social circles is good for the soul and your sanity, but stressing about the unspoken rules can cause some heartburn. Life is never easy and it never will be, but having these relationships is important to your well-being. As your social circles form, think about what these expectations should look like and what you want them to look like. It’s going into something with the end in mind, which is hard for most of us. (I’ll save that topic for another blog post one day!)