What’s the ideal number of friends? It all depends on “grade” and “quality”…

17 Jun

How many true friends do you have? How many friends does one really need to survive in today’s connected society?  Is a stranger you haven’t yet met, but who is a second degree link (someone who someone you know knows) truly a friend of a friend or just a connection? Is a friend on Facebook really a friend just because they are classified as such?

Has social media changed the meaning of “friendship”?  Do you accept “friend requests” from people you don’t know?  All of these are blog posts in their own right, but I’m curious about the number of friends one needs today to be “fashionable”.

There’s so many new questions about connections, friendship, acquaintances, friends of friends, friends of acquaintances, etc. that it can make your head spin…Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Ning, Xing, Twitter, MySpace, I could go on and on with the new social media networks and their importance in one’s personal or business life, but I believe the true value of friendship still lies in meeting someone in person.

Call me old, or call me old school, but I just don’t get the “friendship” value in having 4000+ names on your Facebook account who you’ve never met (and may never meet)!

So, for the moment, let’s go back to the traditional (20+ years ago becomes something I can call traditional) definition of a friend which I will colloquially define as:

FRIEND: someone you choose to have a reciprocal relationship with, who accepts you as you are and is there for you no matter what. Most commonly, friends have met each other in person on at least one occasion– enough to set up a line of rapport.

So, how many “friends” is ideal for your life?  I believe it’s all a matter of what quality and project management gurus call “Grade” and “Quality”.

As far as Grades of Friends, why not consider the egg system:

Grade A (close friend and confidante, you can call day or night, best friends forever)
Grade B (will trade babysitting, cares about your day, consoles and empathizes with your problems, celebrates the high points)
Grade C (swap stories, have play dates with your kids, coffee buddies)
Grade D (soccer mom, waves hello across the parking lot, may know little about you)

The grading of friends (and acquaintances) is seldom anything to do with the person involved but rather of the circumstances of your life.  It’s typical to have a lot of grade D friends when your children are young, and few grade A friends.

Then there’s the concept of quality. This is where the nature of the person involved comes into play:

High quality (genuine, true blue, honest, consistent, reliable, always looking for a win/win, regular contact, actions match their words);
Medium quality (reciprocal but makes sure that they’ll get something out of the contact, less reliable, somewhat fly by night, less committed, laissez faire, can go weeks without contact, words may or may not match actions);
Low quality (calls only when they need something, keeps a balance sheet of the friendship, takes without necessarily giving back, takes advantage when they can benefit, words and no action).

Given these categories, I believe that quality trumps grade when it comes to friendships!

We can survive with fewer high quality people of any grade and we can be happy.  Even a single Grade A high quality friend can suffice and exceed the value of many medium or low quality friends — of any grade!

I am grateful to have a variety of  friends in my life and a few who I’d count as high quality.  I hope this is the same for you!  No matter what your number, I hope you can include yourself as a guaranteed high quality, grade A person in your own life!

Happy Thursday.


Carol Dekkers, Software Measurement and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker. Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event? Email Ms. Dekkers at dekkers@qualityplustech.com or carol@caroldekkers.com or visit http://www.caroldekkers.com for details.

2 Responses to “What’s the ideal number of friends? It all depends on “grade” and “quality”…”

  1. Steve Chizar Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 8:28 am #

    You know, I think you may have found your retirement job… being a freelance writer. Put in a setting where many different people can read them, you might just be a success. You can go live in NYC and write pieces for the New York Times, a magazine, or even a blog!


    • Carol Dekkers Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 10:21 am #

      Wow, I’m honored and flattered that you’d say this. As for a retirement job, I’m so many dollars shy of retirement I might not make it there until I’m 85! Will anyone want to read the ramblings of an old woman then? I’d love to move my current career into a more sustainable, higher paying industry since training and consulting get cut on a moment’s notice these days, and it has nothing to do with me.
      I think I’ve found a new dream! Thanks!


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