Why You Should Have Only a Few Close Friends

Apparently, we as humans are only able to handle 150 friends. This number of 150 has been named “Dunbar’s number,” after an anthropologist by the name of Robin Dunbar. Dunbar has claimed that our brains cannot handle any more than 150 friends.

Here is an example of what Dunbar was speaking about. The owner of a company that sold outdoor gear, like boots and rain jackets, realized, “the bigger a company got, people working for the company were much less likely to work hard and help each other out.”

The owner looked at the number of employees he had (150 plus), and concluded that because of the lack of community within the workers, he would put a cap on the number of people working in his factory at 150. If he needed to expand the company, he would merely build a new one, even if it was right next door to the old one.

After the change, his factories ran smoother…”everybody knew who was who. Who was the manager, who was the accountant, who made the sandwiches for lunch.”

A recent study done on friendship stated that if a person has no real friends at work, they will only have a one in twelve chance of being committed to their job. However, if they have their best friend working with them, they will be more happy and productive.

The study authors wrote, “let friendship ring. It might look like idle chatter, but when employees find friends at work, they feel connected to their jobs. Having a best friend at work is a strong predictor for being a happy and productive employee.”

Now, you may have a full 150 friends, but not all are close and intimate. All of your 150 wonderful friends might be invited to a big party. Out of this 150, you might invite 50 of them to a dinner party. From here, 15 of your friends are close to you, people you can ask for help and are “there” for you. Five or less are likely your trustworthy, give-their-life-for-you friends.

In a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, it states that if your circumstances change, so too will your friends. With college and job changes, it gets more difficult to keep up with some friendships.

Two female friends meeting for a coffeeThe study shows that if you make new friends, you will drop the old ones. It could be because of the time it takes to keep up with your buddies or because, “individuals cannot increase the number of [friends] they communicate with at maximum rate, but must downgrade (or drop) some individuals if they wish to add new ones to their preferred network at a high level of emotional intensity.”

Having close friends is important for your health and happiness, but it takes a lot of time and effort to maintain a close relationship. Because of the effort and time that it takes, your circle of intimate friends will be small. That’s ok, just be sure to spend quality time with that small circle of friends.

Stay friends with the people that bring out the best in you, people that make you happy and visa versa. It does take a lot of time and a lot of emotion to keep a friendship, but in the end, the true ones are worth it.

-The Alternative Daily

Rath, Tom. Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without. Gallup Press: September 2006

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