How many friends does a man need?
Evolutionary biologist and author Robin Dunbar argues that the average human can sustain about 150 friendships. Now, that term is used quite loosely to “refer to those people with whom you have a personalized relationship, one that is reciprocal and based around general obligations of trust and reciprocity.” A “personalized relationship” can mean many things — from your neighbor, to your regular bus driver, to your spouse. How many friends does a man really need? It’s not uncommon on Facebook to have hundreds of “friends.” But if we’re honest, only a mere fraction of those are people we’d consider spending time with. Luckily for us, there has actually been a bit of research into this very question.
So within that 150, there are circles of more intimate relationships. The furthest it breaks down is to the category of an “inner circle of intimate friends.” And that number? Five. The average human has (or should have) five close friends with whom they can connect with on a regular basis. It can vary by one or two, but five seems to be that sweetspot. This is especially true if your various friends fulfill different roles in your life.
Friends make life easier for each other. Their strengths and talents balance your weaknesses and gaps in ability. And you do the same for them. For this reason, a well-rounded group of friends, with different kinds of guys in it, can truly enrich your life. If you have good buddies of any sort, count yourself lucky. If your posse includes the following 5 archetypes, consider yourself truly fortunate.
There comes a time (probably many times) in a man’s life where he just needs to talk to another guy and get some advice. Whether he’s a peer who’s beyond his years in wisdom, or an older gentleman you met at church, you need someone you can turn to when the goin’ gets tough.
Our spouse or significant other often takes on this role, but what happens when it’s our relationship that’s causing some trouble? Or when it’s specifically a dude issue? There are things in life that only guys experience, and times in life that only another fella can speak to.
Besides doling out advice when needed, the mentor is also someone who can give you constructive criticism when he sees something not going so well in your life. Perhaps you’ve gained a bit of hubris with your new promotion, or he catches you flirting with the barista who is very much not your girlfriend. Many a man will shrink from confrontation, but the mentor brings it up, because he ultimately wants you to be a better man.
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