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Dominance Hierarchy in Social Groups/Friendships

I read about social market value here on another website and this got me thinking about the social encounters I had so far. One thing I observed is that there is an inherent dominance hierarchy exist any social group and the ranking is based on how much value one can provide to the group. The value does not necessarily means hard skills in certain area, it has to be area which the group cares about, much like Lucio mentioned in some of his articles. For instance, in a drone flying interest group, in order to be considered as highly valued, one has to be well versed with drones and kept up to date with latest drone news and knowledge. In a more generic social group setting, by been outspoken and ability to tell compelling stories and holding group conversations will be deemed as highly valued. This means that been introverted, kept quiet simply does not help much in breaking into any social group, nor raise to any certain ranks within the group.


I grow up with a group of friends whom I knew in high school through co-curriculum activity outside of school work. The club's objective revolves around competitions and participating contest in line of the club interest. The mentor whom was in-charge of the group advocates competitions among team members and a strong emphasis in winning of competitions. This results in an interesting phenomenon where the remaining club members (those who stayed, one is free to quit anytime) formed a strong hierarchical ladder within the group, where the kingpins are the ones who are more ruthless in winning and overall more results driven, while the rest of the group are the "followers". My social stand in the group is definitely not near the top since I have made quite a number of social mistakes, including giving away powers (growing up years are tough, always learning). After high school, we remained as friends till this day but the hierarchical nature is deeply ingrained, one thing is that showing weakness is definitely frowned upon within the group, members even get ostracized because of that.  The group's interest revolves around wittiness, intellectual debates, building a business and overall optimizing certain aspects of life.

I have since uprooted and came to a new place, leaving friends behind. Ironically, I met one friend within the group who came to the same city as I am few years ago, he is perceived as a higher value member of the group. Sure enough, beyond initial meet and greet, brief introduction to his network here, its all ghosting from then on. I find this to be absurd since I would ease any of my friends comfortably into a new city, hanging out with them and make sure they are settled in with ease.

Then again, who am I to determine that my so called friend is not actually a frenemy? There is always difference in expectation when we measure others based on how we will treat them. For instance, I might be perceived as a value taker in this case since guy had already established his networks here and he might be thinking that I am a free rider on his built network.

My conclusion is that instead of expecting a friend to introduce and ease you into his or her network, It is better to build your own. Although, I must say what I have experienced so far might be an extreme case but if anyone has similar example, feel free to share here.


So instead of blaming on circumstances. Here are some of the strategies I adopted so far to increase value. I believe these skills are helpful in being an overall interesting person when breaking into any other social groups as well. My belief is that been generally highly valued and ability to carry one self well, would do well in any social group, based on social exchange theory.

  • Focus on developing rare and valuable skill (programming, building a side business, learn guitar, foreign language etc)
  • Practice pick your social engagement (do not commit to all social engagement but pick your battles, especially when first starting out. When committed, give your best, speak up and have fun since reputation/first impression matters)
  • Do not put  all your eggs in one basket, have many things going on in your life and keep yourself busy (Idling mind is a devil in the house)
  • Social chameleon, treat people how they want to be treated (e.g debate/sparring with more Machiavellian individual, show warmth and acceptance to individual with lower perceived power)
  • Keep up to date with general knowledge so that you can talk and relate to anything under the sun, this helps in building context.
  • Develop an opinion even if you don't have one in certain situations (Perceived rough and tumble builds relationships).


Why pick your battles? My theory is that, a new person can only measure you based on the limited data points you provide. Few but quality data points builds an impression towards one's perceived potential and overall. Do these enough and you built "consistency" trait ( The Speed of Trust: the one thing changes everything by Stephen M. R. Covey) which is an essential element in building trust, therefore make people gravitate towards you.

What I have realized so far in joining various groups, is that context is very important especially when forming new group of friends. There is a saying, birds of same feathers, flock together, this couldn't be more true.

Context based meetup groups centered around a particular hobby have better chance of sticking together and of course a more distinctive hierarchy. Generic, having fun kind of social group tend to bring people from all walks of life together, therefore a more convoluted interest, it might be easier to break into such group, but establishing deep context with individuals and build 1:1 friendships seems to be more random and luck based.

I do have friends whom I can talk about all these but these friends are very rare (less than 4 for me so far), vast majority do not care about building deep connections and therefore WIIFM rule definitely applies. Context building gives one a headstart in social interaction, how does it branch out from there, is up to luck and individual synergy. Nevertheless, casting one's net far and wide definitely helps!

Love to hear from the folks here!

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Lucio Buffalmano