02 Apr This Is How To Make Emotionally Intelligent Friendships: 6 Secrets
via Eric Barker
Friends are important.
Yeah, yeah, I know: the only thing surprising about that is nothing. But how important are friends really? They’re critical for happiness. (I’m not even gonna quote stats on that one because you know it’s true.)
Let’s up the stakes a bit, shall we? Julianne Holt-Lunstad reviewed 148 epidemiological studies with a combined total of over 300,000 patients and looked at who died. So we’re not splitting hairs here, it’s black and white, life and DEATH. (Hey, it’s death we’re talking about here. I earned that caps lock.)
The studies asked patients tons of questions to see what correlated with who died. Weight, how much they drank, what they ate, amount of exercise, air pollution, etc, etc. The reason I’m so casual about what the questions were is because you can all but ignore most of them. Only two things made a huge difference: frequency of social support and how integrated they were in their community.
Only other thing that even came close was smoking. Not much else mattered. Even after having a heart attack or stroke, it was people with more friends who had a 50% greater chance of survival. Oxford professor Robin Dunbar, Sorcerer Supreme of Social Science, explained the results thusly:
It will no doubt get me into trouble with the medical profession, but it is not too much of an exaggeration to say that you can eat as much as you like, drink as much alcohol as you want, slob about as much as you fancy, fail to do your exercises and live in as polluted an atmosphere as you can find, and you will barely notice the difference. But having no friends or not being involved in community activities will dramatically affect how long you live.
Maybe you’re looking for something a little more timely and relevant? Fair enough. One factor in how well that COVID vaccine helps you may actually be how many friends you have:
That loneliness really does have adverse consequences for your immune system was shown by Sarah Pressman and her colleagues at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University. They found that loneliness among freshmen students resulted in a reduced immune response when the students were given a flu vaccine.
So if you’re not minding your friendships you’re not the single dumbest person on the planet — but you better hope that guy doesn’t die. Seriously though, we’ve all suffered to varying degrees from lockdown measures and our natural animal socializing instincts have withered in captivity. We could use some help.
It turns out there are some rules to friendship and we better learn them so I don’t have to use the caps lock again. Who is gonna bring the info? Robin Dunbar is professor emeritus of evolutionary psychology at the University of Oxford. His new book is “Friends: Understanding the Power of our Most Important Relationships.”
Let’s get to it…
The Dunbar Number
Studies show the average person sends Christmas cards to 154 people. Survey data from The Knot says the average wedding has 144 guests. Average hunter-gatherer tribe? 148.4 people. Typical size of medieval English villages? 150. Average number of Facebook friends and email contacts? Between 150 to 250…
Seeing a pattern? Robin found that nearly every study out there shows “natural human communities and personal social networks seem to have a typical size of about 150.” Pretty neat, huh? But why 150? Because family. When you look at traditional societies without modern contraception living in a tribe of three generations (kids, parents, grandparents) you end up with – yeah, that’s right – about 150 people. That number is wired into us pretty deeply.
Some are gonna say, “But I only have like 5 close friends. Maybe 12 people I really care about.” But that fits the model too. It’s not just one big lump of 150; it’s concentric circles. Most people have about 5 friends they contact weekly, roughly 15 they talk to monthly, approximately 50 they hear from every six months, and 150 they reach out to annually.
The math majors may already be ahead of us – it’s a fractal pattern with a scaling ratio of 3. And you see that same ratio in many animals from giant noctule bats to Columbian ground squirrels. These groupings are as consistent and eerie as crop circles. Look around and you’ll see them. That group of roughly 15? When social psychologists Christian Buys and Kenneth Larsen had subjects make a list of the people whose death would really upset them, the answer was 12. How big are juries, sports teams, military units and the number of Apostles? Around 12. Not exactly 15 but close enough to show you something is going on here beneath the surface.
You almost never see math like this in behavioral science. The social world is not as random as we might think. The Mighty Oz has spoken: there are consistent rules lurking beneath the surface of our relationships, ones that we’re not consciously aware of. As my credit card company has frequently informed me, math doesn’t have an appeals process. So we’ll be much better off if we understand the hidden rules that underlie our relationships.
(To learn more about how you can lead a successful life, check out my bestselling book here.)
So what else can we learn from Robin? Well, if you don’t take care of those relationships, they’re gonna go away. Friendship is fragile. So how do we stop the losses?
1) Stay In Touch
Nobody has ever said, “I’d like to lose more friends” just like nobody has ever said, “I wish they would record this podcast live in front of an audience.” Despite that, you’re going to lose a good friend about every 2 years.
Our data suggest that, on average, you could expect to have one terminal (i.e. unreconciled) relationship breakdown every 2.3 years.
Six months of separation from a friend and they drop from a higher circle (like the closest 5) to a lower one (like the circle of 15.) And this isn’t true for family. Friendship is more fragile and needs more care. Yeah, I know you’re connected on social media, where you “like” their photos and do your personal-brand bonsai pruning, but, looking at the data, Robin feels this just slows the decline. We need face-to-face contact otherwise your subscription to Netflix may be your longest relationship.
You gotta be deliberate and stay in touch. You want to be consistent. Maybe not as predictable as a Hallmark movie, but reach out regularly to the friends you want to maintain. Let them know they matter.
(To learn the two-word morning ritual that will make you happy all day, click here.)
Okay, so what are most of our friendships missing?
… keep reading the full & original article HERE