In 2020, we learned we could stay productively connected to our clients anywhere in the world via ZOOM, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, etc., even though the pandemic prevented us from our normal travel and face-to-face meetings. 2020 also prevented us from seeing family and friends as much as we would have liked, and for the foreseeable future, 2021 will bring similar challenges. Thank goodness for Skype, Facetime, ZOOM and other services which allow us to continue to connect face-to-face, even though the Pandemic may continue to provide obstacles.
In my last book, The Third Decision: The Intentional entrepreneur, I wrote a chapter on friendships. The book was written around the top regrets people typically had in their lives. Friendships, or lack of them, was one of the top regrets.
Back in the 1980s, a University of Oxford anthropologist and psychologist named Robin Dunbar, who had been studying ape brains, began working to connect what he knew about ape communities to humans and their friendships. This led him to determine that the average man or woman has trouble remembering the names of more than 1,500 people and can only truly manage about 150 social contacts. Most researchers still use the Dunbar number as a rule of thumb. They consider the optimal number of social contacts for most humans to be 150—the number of people we’d invite to a large party or a small wedding. Inside the circle of 150 friends are smaller circles:
- Close friends, numbering fifty. These are the people who, in groups of about a dozen, you’d happily host in your home or invite to a birthday party. In normal years, you see these people frequently, but you don’t consider them intimates.
- True confidants, numbering fifteen. These are friends you discuss life with, perhaps in groups of four or fewer. You look to them for empathy and trust them to respect your confidence. These are the friends that you have met with for coffee to discuss your significant opportunities and challenges.
- Your support group, no more than five people. These are your absolute best friends and family members, the people who probably know what you’ll say before you say it. These are the individuals you trust as a sounding board; the ones you seek out for help with the biggest life decisions.
So, my question to you is this: What did you do well in 2020 and where did you fall short when it comes to your friendships? What would you like to improve on in 2021?
There are studies that prove that having great friendships has a positive influence on our health. So, I would challenge us all to not let another year go by without more face-to-face interaction with those in our circles – especially the circles of five and fifteen. A virtual coffee, lunch or cocktail hour (your choice) is the closest thing we have to being together face-to-face in the first half of 2021, if being present together is simply not a choice.
So, when you are scheduling your next business ZOOM meeting, consider scheduling a ZOOM with some of your closest friends—at least until we can safely see them in person—and with the vaccine being rolled out throughout the country, that time is coming soon!