Mark has 355 LinkedIn friends and 453 Facebook friends. He is an active member of two professional groups, attends church weekly, coaches his son’s soccer team, and gets along well with his colleagues at work. So, when we ask him to name his closest friends, we are a bit surprised by his response. Mark becomes thoughtful and quiet for a moment. Then he mentions a group of friends he sees a couple of times a month, and eventually names two people he would consider close. Suddenly he is a bit embarrassed. Despite being focused in many areas of his work and home life, it is clear to him that he has not given his core network much attention or strategy.Recent studies underscore that the people with whom we surround ourselves have a tremendous influence who we will become and what we will achieve. Our closest online and face-to-face connections powerfully influence our career success, health, finances, even our charitable involvement and generosity towards others. When we do not give careful attention to choosing those who will influence us the very most, we can unwittingly set ourselves up for a significant, continuing, disadvantage in life. In one fascinating study, Nicolas Christakis reported that if your friend grows obese, you have a 57% chance of becoming obese yourself during the same time period!
We too have seen the powerful influence of one’s closest network as we have worked with individuals wrestling with substance abuse. As a part of our initial assessment, we always ask about the network of people that surround our new clients. It is critical to know who is a part of their circle of influence, with an eye to assessing who may be supporting their drug or alcohol habit. A careful exploration of their social connections invariably reveals those who are negative influencers, e.g., other users, and those who might not be supportive of their recovery efforts. For sobriety to be maintained, our clients need to be firm about their new direction and limit their interactions with those who might sabotage their efforts. Our success truly has much to do with “the company we keep.”
How many do we need in our “inner circle?” Lewis Schiff, author of Business Brilliant, maintains that it is virtually impossible to maintain “close, truly meaningful relationships” with more than six people. He found that the average number of close friends among the “ultra financially successful”-those with a net worth of over $30 million was 4.8 friends. In contrast, those who were in the middle class reported more than nine close friends. His conclusion was that we need to take care to cultivate our core of friends, ideally about six. When we seek to keep up with more than this number, the quality of those closest friendships will suffer.
Consider your own core “social network.” Do you have at least six? Or, do you have too many? It is important to chose your core relationships carefully. Does your network provide you with more positive or negative energy? Would you truly want to become more like your friends? Dan Miller said it best, “You are the average of your six closest friends.” Who are the six most influential people in your life at the moment? How would you rate each one on a scale of 1-10, 10 being most positive? We all have dear friends that are struggling but it is important to make sure that, overall, our social circle is positive, uplifting and challenging. What steps might you take to limit the impact of those who negatively influence you? How does your network need to expanded to include more positive influencers?
We hope you will carefully choose a network that will bring out your best.
Dr. Marcus Dayhoff & Dr. Bill Dyment