How to Fail at Mixing Two (or More) Groups of Friends

I believe I’ve underestimated the number of goodbye luncheons, farewell parties, and going-away shindigs that I would be doing in my last few days in the Cincinnati area. A week and half ago, I went out for dinner with some coworkers. A week later (last Thursday) I had a farewell lunch with even more coworkers: about 20 in total!

Then, yesterday I had a grill-out with about 30 friends from three different social circles: coworkers, Yelpers, and runners.

I was immediately reminded of a Jim Gaffigan bit about mixing up groups of friends…

You ever mix two different groups of friends? That can be stressful. You always feel like you have to prep ’em. You’re like, “These people over here, uh, they don’t think I drink. And don’t be thrown by my British accent.”

My coworkers were the most prevalent at the event and immediately all started chatting away. The funny thing is, not all of them knew each other (some I work with daily, others I know through the rotational program I was in, others are friends of friends who work at my job, etc.) but they still had that commonality between them that made it less awkward to sit at a table together.

The next largest group were the Yelpers, some of which are in the photo above. I know them through, of course, Yelp, where I am part of the “Elite” group (oh, how I hate that term, despite it being a compliment, I suppose). We all go to the same parties in Cincinnati, and I even attended a Yelper’s wedding a few months ago. They’re a fun, eclectic group who always keep things interesting. (I think I am attached to them because they remind me of my bestest buddies from home, with their potty mouths and inappropriate comments galore.)

Three of my DB’s friends arrived, and they stayed together at their own little table. I don’t know them very well, but I know DB was happy that he had some companions with which to converse!

The tiny group of two runner friends of mine rounded out the bunch. Not only were they the only attendees from that social circle, but they are engaged so one would think they’d only really talk to themselves or myself and DB; however, the both of them are extremely social people: one played a comingled volleyball game and one was talking with my coworkers who also run.

It became really apparent that everyone was clique-ing off: Yelpers with Yelpers, coworkers with coworkers… so I made the futile attempt to mix things up by inviting people to play volleyball. A coworker and good friend of mine is also a Yelp Elite, so I enlisted his help in this. Eventually the game began…

…and consisted of 8 coworkers, 1 Yelper, and my aforementioned friend who [I had hoped] could bridge the gap.

Fail.

Throughout the afternoon I tried and tried to integrate the groups, but aside from the two super-social runners, myself, DB, and my unsuccessful volleyball game instigator, it didn’t work out as well as I’d wanted it to. We did have a decent volleyball game later on that was comprised of myself, DB, his three friends, one runner, and two coworkers. I consider that my success of the day!

Sure, I could have done some kind of corny ice-breaker (remember the “everybody line up from youngest to oldest without talking” game?) but I think that could have made the day pretty awkward and ultimately a complete failure.

In the end, I learned this: as much as you want your groups of friends to naturally come together, it may not happen… and that’s not a bad thing! Everyone at my grill-out apparently had a great time despite the fact I considered myself a pretty terrible host for not achieving my “big happy family” ideal.

If everyone’s happy, I’m happy.

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