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Why Quality is More Important Than Quantity When it Comes to Friendships

September 3, 2013

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When I was in high school, I always felt like there was something wrong with me because I didn’t have a ton of friends. I had a handful of good friends but could never find the time or energy to juggle dozens of relationships. I was always envious of the girls who seemed to have 20 BBFs. It wasn’t until I grew up and graduated from college that I realized that I was doing it right all along.

Having four or five close friends is much more important than having a flock of friends to spend time with. When it comes to friendships, it’s all about quality, not quantity.

This isn’t always the easiest motto to live by, especially in this digital age where the number of friends people have is listed right on their Facebook page. It’s trendy, especially for younger people, to have as many friends as possible on their social media profiles. It’s like a digital popularity contest.  To really focus on the quality of your friendships, it’s so important to take your relationships offline and put in the effort to build them in real life.

In fact, according to research, good friends are vital to our wellbeing.  Best-selling author and researcher Tom Rath talks in his book Vital Friends about how close friends make us happier, healthier, and they even make us more productive at work. Rath states that people who have close friends at work are seven times more likely to be engaged in their job. They are more productive, complete work faster, and are more likely to share ideas.  

Having authentic friends isn’t just important in the work place. Close friends are the people who are always there to lift us up in the bad times, celebrate in the good times, encourage us to pursue our passions, and fulfill our lives in a way that only good friends can.

How can you make sure that you have good, quality relationships with your closest friends? The first step is to make a list of your friends. This could be 3, 4, 5 or even 20 people. Now look at the list and write down one or two instances when this person has really, truly touched you or influenced you in a good way. Now write down everything that you have in common with that person and how you feel when you are with them.  Do you feel that the conversation flows naturally, or is it forced and uncomfortable at times? Do you feel like you are completely yourself around that person?

Once you have done that, pull out a smaller list of 4 or 5 of the people that you feel closest to. Really put effort into cultivating and nurturing the relationships that you have with these people. That’s not to say that you should completely drop all of your other friends or casual acquaintances. Knowing who your good friends are will just prevent you from spreading yourself too thin, or putting effort into relationships that aren’t fulfilling you in the way that you need friendships to.

Of course, it’s not always easy to remember that it’s OK to not have 10 or 15 friends on speed dial. From time to time I find myself wondering who else I can invite to a party or who I can add to an email chain. However, one glance at the names already on the list and I realize there is no one else I would rather spend my time with.