Find Your Tribe – Good for the Dog; Good for You

Honey the Golden Retriever checks her p-mail.

Gotta check my p-mail to know what my tribe has been up to.

Honey can spot a Golden Retriever from over a block away. And she always responds with a swoosh of her tail, a funny hop, and a look at me to see if we’re going to say hello.

She has found a member of her tribe.

The Ones Who “Get” You

For years, tribalism has referred to people with ethnic, cultural, or religious ties who sometimes use violence to defend their group against others.

But I’m using tribe the way people who live their lives online use it. Your tribe comprises the people who “get” you.

Over the past year, I’ve heard the same advice from different sources—don’t waste time with people who don’t appreciate what you’re doing. Find the people who “get” you and strengthen your ties to them.

At first, the advice made me uncomfortable. Especially when the people giving it said things like “and the people who don’t get you can just go have carnal relations with themselves.” (Well, that’s not quite what they said but this is a PG-rated blog.)

But the words stuck with me. Especially when someone tries to lure me into an online argument.

Arguing with Idiots

Occasionally someone will get defensive in the comments at Something Wagging. But it’s rare.

I’m more likely to find someone with a weird agenda through my first home buyer’s blog. There are real estate agents and lenders looking for visibility and business. Large websites looking for free content. And the occasional wackadoo troll.

I still smart at a Reddit commenter who called my article about having too much debt to buy a home spam.

When I first read it, I ran serious and snarky replies in my mind for over a week. Why? I have no idea.

Because I’ve counseled over 2000 people who wanted to buy homes. I’ve read their credit reports. I’ve seen their income. And I’ve had to tell some of them what they didn’t want to hear: that if you can’t afford more than the minimum payment on your credit cards and are in forbearance on your student loans, you’re not ready to buy a house.

I’ve handed them tissues when they started crying. I’ve encouraged them as they began digging themselves out of the financial hole they created for themselves. And I’ve cheered them on at their real estate closings after years of hard work.

People who can’t reach their dreams because they need help solving financial problems are my tribe. Redditors who type nasty comments from their mother’s basement aren’t.

Increase Your Tribes

Another thing that worries me about the advice to stick with your tribe is this: when like-minded people hang out together, their views become more extreme. For example, conservative people become more conservative when they only hang around other conservatives. Liberal people become more liberal when they spend time with other liberals.

So how do you find your tribes without cutting yourself off from different viewpoints?

Honey has one answer—redefine your tribe.

Yes, another Golden Retriever will catch her eye first. But if we go to the dog park, she won’t only look for other Goldens. She’ll also look for dogs that are on the young side. She pays attention to body language that is similar to her own. And she’ll look for the other retrievers (regardless of what breed they are). Dogs that fetch balls and sticks are also part of her tribe.

I learn from Honey and constantly redefine my tribe wherever I am.

So while it would be easy to say my tribes include people with progressive politics who love dogs and work in nonprofits, I prefer the following. My tribe mates are:

  • intellectually curious
  • expressive
  • compassionate

Just like Honey’s tribe mates are playful and fun-loving. That gives a lot of room to have diverse tribes.

Forming tribes with people who are intellectually curious has brought me friends who love synagogue architecture, celtic music, and comic books.

Honey the Golden Retriever stands in front of Ithaca Falls.

Where’s my tribe? Don’t they know that when the falls are only half frozen it’s warm enough to play?

Many of my expressive tribe mates write. After all, I am a blogger. But others are painters, dancers, photographers, and musicians.

And forming tribes with compassionate people means I spend time with animal welfare activists concerned with pets and farm animals. Friends who are pro-life and pro-choice are motivated by a desire to help instead of a hatred of those who disagree with them about the best way to do it.

I hope that eventually I’ll stop worrying about other people’s tribes. And focus on collaborating with the world-changers who live in my own tribe.

Actions Speak 

Humans have more complex brains than dogs. It allows us to do many good and evil things that would never occur to a dog to do.

But that doesn’t mean dogs have nothing to teach us.

Honey finds her tribe by looking for signs of friendliness and encouragement. I need to do that too. And shake off the signs that someone isn’t a member of my tribe and doesn’t want to become one.

After all, if it’s good for Honey, it just might be good for me too.

Do you think finding your tribe is good advice? Or dangerous? And does your dog have tribes? 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. It is so important to keep an open mind and hear what the other person is saying, even if you disagree… assuming everyone is of good will and discussing, not hurling abuse. I can’t stand it when people try to bolster arguments with emotion and outright lies, rather than try to persuade with the truth.

    Mary Matalin and James Carville made a personal “tribe” of Democrat and Republican because, even though they take different roads, both care passionately about their country. If they can make a marriage work, surely the rest of us can at least be civil?

    • Besides, Matalin and Carville realize influence wins the day over argument.

      Of course I’m not sure political operatives believe in anything but winning. :)

  2. No tribes here, human or dog. We just go with the flow. Have a marvelous Monday.
    Best wishes Molly

  3. I think this post needs to be read by everyone right now. I tend to be of the belief that, if we really looked for it, we’d find we have so much more in common with each other than not. And that it’s that commonality that binds us together during times of hardship.

    As long as someone isn’t lying or being vicious and ugly, I believe I can learn from them and together we can work to make a difference in the world. Unfortunately, vicious and ugly are things people easily give in to within the anonymity of the internet.

    I like how you’ve defined your tribe.

  4. We like to hang out with people that I would say are our tribe. We don’t don’t hang out with very many people, so it’s nice to be with people you like the very most.

    • And it’s particularly nice to spend time with the people you like the most when your home is smaller than many people’s bathrooms. :)

  5. You’ve already got some great comments on this one Pamela.

    I’ve learned a lot from people who didn’t necessarily share my point of view and there have been times when their argument made me see things in a different light and changed my point of view. I think (like Leslie said) ” if we really looked for it, we’d find we have so much more in common with each other than not” the key is to put down our defenses and find the commonality.

    That being said, I still like the people I surround myself with to have a love of dogs and want to change the plight of all animals in this world. :-)

    • I find meeting other animal lovers online has really expanded my tribe. I live in a town that’s very self-consciously progressive. And it proves that liberal and open-minded are not necessarily synonyms. :)

      Many of my animal loving friends probably disagree vehemently with my views on politics, religion, and important things like the best TV shows. Yet our love for animals and desire to continue learning about them creates a powerful bond.

      I’ve also loved making international friends online. That’s something I’d have been far less likely to do if not for keeping a dog blog.

      • Mike Webster says:

        From the Husband:

        Pam, in our years together, I like to think we’ve successfully negotiated such differences as we may have in politics and religion. But if we are to continue to make this marriage work, you and I have got to find a way to get on the same page regarding the TV shows.

        Let’s start with “House” . . .

        • What a fantastic definition of “tribe”. I’ve often struggled with my own tribe since there are few common factors that tie us all together, but when I look at it from your point of view, it gels. I definitely find that spending time with my tribe heartens me up greatly and makes me able to go out and interact with other tribes, even if they aren’t quite my cup of tea. (Like these tribes of free roaming Internet trolls. There should be some sort of program designed to capture and tame them.)

      • PS-Ill watch House with Mike if you won’t ;0)

  6. Most of my “online” friends are either other dog bloggers or writers, so we share a common interest, but most of my “real life” friends are people from all walks of life that have come into my life in different ways, so I guess I have already got a pretty open tribe.

    I try not to be judgmental of others, or force my ideas on others, but I often hope that just by talking about my beliefs might gain others interest. To be honest, it usually doesn’t work out that way, but it is something I always hope for. :-)

  7. My tribe is entirely comprised of dog lovers. I do try to avoid fanatics, like those that support PETA, but for those most part I find dog people (and cat people) to be more compassionate and kinder than people who do not like animals. But many people may disagree with me on this.

    But all that aside, I smiled when I read your comment about Honey recognizing other golden retrievers. I have witnessed this myself, with our collies, when we are at dog shows. I have seen them come to attention, and their tails start to wag, and when I look there is usually another collie headed our way. I always thought it was sweet and funny, how dogs can recognize other members of their breed!

  8. We’re a bit antisocial here, so not much of a tribe to speak of outside of a motley bunch of dog people, old miscellaneous mates and capoeiristas. Now there’s a tribe! More like a cult 😉 I think people will always tend towards people who have similar values and dreams as themselves. There has to be some little thing that connects them, right? I worry when people have tribe mates that are based entirely on things like race and social standing. That seems sad.

    Georgia has a preference for XL dogs who are street food connoiseurs like herself.

    P.S. I watch Fox for exactly the reason you described. It makes me hyperventilate but I do it anyway.

  9. Like you, Pamela, my tribe tends to include the “progressive”, compassionate, types; but I do have some conservatives in my tribe — we just stay away from politics when we spend time together. Is this dangerous? I think it’s just the opposite — it’s protective of our friendship. We already know that our political views are as far apart as those of President Obama and Senator Mitch McConnell. So why start an argument? We tend to get a little defensive at times, so better to skip such topics and stick to catching up on each other’s lives.

  10. As we’ve traveled around the country, it’s been interesting to see which real life people get added to our tribe. Because we’re on the move, it’s easy to say hello, maybe share a meal, and then move on and perhaps never be in touch again. There are a few people we’ve met, though, that stick. When I think about that group, it seems to be people I’d like to be more like – free thinkings, challengers of the status quo, people who are continually learning. It’s not so much about what they do for a living or where they’re from, it’s more about who they are at their core.

  11. Ironically, working in politics enlarged my tribe enormously. I learned to hear other points of view and understand it was okay to approach life differently. I learned that people of opposite politics may be actually working toward the same goals and had the same hopes and fears. (After all a politician needs votes from many kinds of people, and my job was to find out what those people were interested in and why.)

    I had not thought about it, but Bogie certainly has the “don’t bother with people who are annoying” thing down pat. On walks, if we run into big lunging, growling dogs or little dogs who yap aggressively, he just keeps gong in a straight line as though they don’t exist. But he also has a real prejudice in favor of other fuzzy little guys–running to them first at the dog park.

  12. Yes, tribes are a natural organizing principle for complex social animals. I always marvel at how well dogs usually react to new tribe members. After all, when we bring multiple dogs into our homes that are unrelated and they all eventually find their place in the hierarchy, the dogs are showing us humans a thing or two about the flexibility of the concept “tribe”‘, don’t your think?

  13. Pamela please take this as a complement…This post has me speechless…I connect so deeply to what you’ve said here that I have no words to express the way I’m feeling…Know that this will be saved and reread many times…Thank you

  14. Great post to really get you thinking! I ended up erasing seveal answers to this post, but what it really comes down to (for me) is that I like socializiing (online and in person) with people who are part of my tribe. I do however have many different tribes because I have friends from many different walks of life – but there is usually a common bond there in some form or another.

  15. I think you need a balance. You need people to challenge you to see the other side of things sometimes and people who support you and help you make logical points and hone your own opinions at times. Both sides are good for you, and sometimes you might change an opinion about something if you can really listen to what someone is telling you.

    My dogs definitely know their own tribe! Seeing Greyhounds who spot another Greyhound is always pretty amusing. They are usually friendly with other dogs, but a bit aloof. Throw another hound in, though, and they get a lot more animated and surprised. The Shepherds definitely know when they’ve found another of their tribe, too. Nobody plays Shepherd games like another Shepherd!

  16. Vizslas are very “clanish” and LOVE other Vizslas!