Strengths and Friendship


November 9, 2015

A 2010 study found that adults in America have about two close friends. Given that there are more than 315 million people in the U.S., that number might feel low. But is it, really?

Like all things, it depends.

How we define friendship and closeness is relative to who we are. For example, having two close friends will likely feel just about right to someone who is strong in relator; while that number might be staggering to someone high in significance or woo.

Neither view is inherently good or bad, or better or worse. No, it’s just different perspectives and understandings, which are at the core of a strengths worldview.   That is, there are lots of ways of approaching a given situation. Especially friendships.

So, if having two friends is at the low end, what does research tell us is at the high end?

University of Oxford anthropologists found that people can only manage up to 150 significant relationships at the same time. If we wanted to have a face-to-face conversation with that many people in one year, it works out to meeting with a different person every 2.4 days.

While it may seem like common sense, it clearly matters how we are defining these terms: friendship, close, and significant. After all, what is a close connection to one person might be business-as-usual to another person. This fact, by itself, is an invitation for all of us to practice being in another’s shoes and to remember that we are constantly being given opportunities to affect others in meaningful ways.

How do we define a friend? Are they someone from whom we learn something important? Are they a confidant? Must they be there from the start to the end? Do we need to know all of their secrets? Can it last for just a day and still count as friendship?

The strengths help us learn about ourselves, it is true. And they can also provide a lens through which we can view and embrace others in their greatness. In this way, we can develop an understanding that while we won’t be friends with everyone, we can, in fact, learn from everyone and grow.

Who are the three most important people in my life? What actions have I taken to acknowledge and praise what makes them who they are? In what ways are we similar? What things have I learned from them that make me who I am? How can I continue to honor who they are and support them in their greatness?

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

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