What are Social Norms?
Social norms, in layman's terms, are unspoken rules of a particular group. Most of us have experienced social norms without using those specific terms. These rules are based on the values the group shares in common. We recognize when people stop speaking to us or when we feel accepted or unaccepted by a group.
Social norms can be helpful or destructive to groups and individuals depending on what those norms are. They can help a group grow in depth (closeness, character, cohesion) and/or breadth (number of people included, connected, or participating) or not participating. Many times people do not wish to change or improve in order to grow with the group, so they naturally seek out other's who have their same values.
What is Community?
Community comes from the phrase, "common unity." Community plays many roles in our lives including providing a sense of belongingness, acceptance, and comradery. There are many different kinds of community groups like business, religious or spiritual, neighborhood, etc.
What are Cliques?
A clique, in layman's terms, is a small group of people who share interests and values and do not easily allow others to join them. Cliques are defined as slightly different depending on whether the person defining them is an academic sociologist or just "a commoner." Most people I talk to include in the definition of a clique the observation that it is a "closed group."
I live in an area with a lot of "closed groups." I've had both first-hand and second-hand experience with the effects cliques can have on individuals. When people feel socially isolated without apparent change this can lead to hopelessness and sometimes eventually suicide. There has been a fair amount of suicides in my area. A significant enough amount that a specialized plaque was set up in a nearby park commemorating, "all those who took their lives through suicide"
Openness, Judgments, Behaviors, People, and Worth
Being shrewdly open to meeting and learning from others who are different from yourself is the key to each individual in a group to keep from creating a closed group. We all know to be careful when meeting new people since we don't know anything about them. But this doesn't mean we need to go all the way to the other extreme which becomes suspicion without good reason, intolerance, impatience, or bigotry.
All of us have strengths, weaknesses, gifts, and areas of growth. What I've found that helps is to seek to understand an individual's behavior even if it's an area of growth. When we see challenging behaviors in the context of an individual's strengths, capabilities, and gifts, we are reminded of each individual's unique worth apart from their behaviors. This can go a long way in promoting acceptance and inclusiveness in a group.
Social norms affect whether communities are closed (cliques) or open. If individuals in a group seek the value of each other apart from challenging behaviors and practice patience and acceptance of diversity, groups can grow in depth, breadth, or both.
How Can I Apply This?
Do you see the value in each individual apart from challenging behaviors or areas of growth? Do you make an effort to reach out to new people and get to know them? Are you open to various kinds of positive diversity (diversity that embraces peace and coexistence)? Do you understand how community, social norms, and cliques affect the overall health and growth of a specific geographical region?