How many friends do you have? Not talking about Facebook friends or twitter followers, talking about REAL friends. People you know and recognize on a personal level and have formed a meaningful relationship with. Now, this number could be as low as one or two, or it could be as high as one-hundred. In fact, it likely is that high once you start factoring in family members, business associates, people you work with, and more. However, what is the maximum limit for the number of meaningful relationships you can have at once?
This might not seem like something people can really know, but doctors have found that hard limit – 150. It is known as Dunbar’s number and refers to the upper limit of meaningful relationships a person can sustain. The exact value tends to vary from person to person, but 150 is the average. More people than that, and a few inevitably get filtered out into another bubble.
How This Limit Impacts You
That upper limit of 150 people can be limiting to somebody trying to build a professional network who also wants to maintain a solid social network. While there is nothing wrong with the two overlapping, this can create problems where saying something that would be acceptable among personal friends could ruin your business relationships or even cost you a job. It is often easier to keep things sorted into different buckets.
However, what this means overall is that you have to cultivate relationships carefully and selectively. You have to maintain those relationships you are able to manage and let the ones that are no longer of benefit fall away to free up mental space. This allows you to maintain a healthy social life while also keeping yourself financially secure.
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Getting Around Dunbar’s Number
As the world becomes more interconnected and relationship building becomes more important, finding ways around this upper limit becomes increasingly important. While there are techniques for helping expand the limit, depending entirely on your brain is counter-productive. The human mind is a wonderful thing, but it’s also prone to errors and mistakes – as such, technology is of enormous benefit.
A good contacts application can sort people out for you and maintain information on various individuals. Setting up schedules for periodic calls and outreach can help maintain those connections as well, allowing for a relationship to keep going without having a chance to decay. Applications from companies like Covve help sort your contacts out into various buckets and maintain notes on those people.
What this means is you can effectively circumvent Dunbar’s number because you are storing contact information in an offline device. Having more than 150 ongoing relationships is still a challenge, but by sorting those relationships into different ‘buckets’ you can get past the mental barriers that would otherwise limit your ability to form connections.
Technology Bypassing Limitations
As time goes on we are repeatedly confronted by our own limitations. Humans in both mind and body are simply not built for what our technology is making possible and what society demands. We have already begun this process of integrating technology as a way to augment our abilities, with the internet and mobile devices giving us access to more knowledge and perspectives than we could ever hope to catalogue and grasp within a single generation. This also helps us get around the limitations in our ability to network and socialize. Embracing new social networking technologies early helps people get ahead of the curve, and makes them appear professional and well organized. This is essential in all sectors – whether just socializing, trying to land a new job, or forge connections to make a new business idea become reality.