There are countless books, guides, and courses teaching introverts how to widen their personal and professional circle of friends for greater success.
However, introverts can retain their energy, remain focused, and accomplish more goals when they shorten their circle of friends.
And for clarity purposes, friends can be characterized as either “close-knit” or associates.
Close-knit friends are people you almost consider family based on the depth and length of the friendship.
Whereas associates are individuals who you are cordial and friendly with but would not consider close-knit.
In other words, you would not be emotionally affected if you never saw associates again. With close-knit friends, you would.
Although both types of friends may be valuable, associates may prove more beneficial in many situations because familiarity often breeds contempt.
In many instances, close-knit friends may be less inclined to assist you when needed.
Contrarily, associates connected to you based on their limited and well-defined interests are more inclined to help you because narrow and focused benefits cut down on distractions.
Close-knit friendships are all-encompassing.
These friends tend to know the good, the bad, and the ugly about you. And they often stress the bad and the ugly about you versus the good, but you may never know it.
This type of friend may enjoy great fun and games with you, but when it comes to investing financially in your business or interests, you may find them lacking participation.
They can recount instances you had long forgotten when you did something that changed their view of you.
Consequently, mere associates can provide more value because they lack the information to evaluate you negatively.
Sometimes friends may not be a part of your core group.
In their research abstract, Norton, Frost & Ariely (2007) posited that “The present research shows that although people believe that learning more about others leads to greater liking, more information about others leads, on average, to less liking. Thus, ambiguity–lacking information about another–leads to liking, whereas familiarity–acquiring more information–can breed contempt. This “less is more” effect is due to the cascading nature of dissimilarity: Once evidence of dissimilarity is encountered, subsequent information is more likely to be interpreted as further evidence of dissimilarity, leading to decreased liking” (para. 1).
The results of Norton, Frost & Ariely’s analysis suggest that the more we know about people, the less we like them, mainly when they are different than what we expected.
Additionally, although we may still like some friends, they may not be a part of our core group, and out of sight becomes out of mind.
I once ran into an old friend who is a real estate agent. While catching up on the latest events in our lives, I mentioned that I had recently purchased a house.
He immediately asked, “How come you didn’t call me when you were looking to buy a home?” I was surprised by the question and was at a loss for words. I gave some clumsy excuse about time being of the essence.
However, as I later thought about his question, I realized that he didn’t come to mind even though I had known him for years. Real estate sales seemed to be his supplemental income instead of his full-time job.
Instead, I used another real estate agent who came through a referral, and the relationship was purely transactional. He wasn’t an associate but completed this “one-off” deal for me.
I learned that when group members don’t cultivate the relationship, they will be forgotten when opportunities arise.
Finally, friends who don’t instill confidence within members of a circle will also lose out on opportunities.
Because I didn’t see my friend as a credible real estate agent, he was the last person I would have contacted to buy a house.
The benefit of shortened circles of friends
Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion states, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
Using the Third Law of Motion for relationships, for every person who discounts introverts, there will be a cadre of people who gravitate towards them.
In this regard, introverts have an advantage in their ability to shorten their circle of friends for two reasons.
One, they typically do not have a large circle of friends based on their reflective and thoughtful ways of connecting with others.
And two, introverts allow relationships to form organically, which takes longer to cement.
Since they tend to stay to themselves, they are not clamoring for popularity or the need for acceptance, which tends to widen circles.
Moreover, another benefit of shortened circles of friends for introverts is that everyone has been vetted.
The inner circle tends to be closer and tighter because they take longer to form.
And as introverts get older, the desirability to create new circles of friends decreases.
As a result, anyone who does not have a substantial number of years as a close-knit friend will be relegated to merely being an associate for life.
How to shorten your circle of friends when necessary.
Introverts tend to be cautious and close to the vest in their countenance and persona.
You inherently create a filtering process by exhibiting a “no nonsense” bearing with a degree of firmness.
This filtering process allows you to observe and interpret the actions of others objectively.
As individuals demonstrate high degrees of value and morality, you can loosen up and engage them.
Nothing is forced or manufactured. In time, the right connections will take place.
When gregarious or talkative personalities meet people, they tend to be overly available. And once people show themselves counterproductive, gregarious individuals may be forced to retreat.
But now it looks suspicious for the once talkative person, who was open and engaging, now appearing closed and disconnected.
These false starts of engagement are less likely to occur with introverts.
And in instances where someone has fallen out of favor, you may express your discontentment directly or merely let the offending party fall by the wayside.
People often fight for what they value and fear losing what they deem essential.
If offending parties do not reform themselves, they have summarily dismissed themselves from your circle of friends.
Some schools of thought encourage individuals to salvage relationships at all costs.
Salvaging counterproductive relationships is not the path to retaining energy, remaining focused, and accomplishing goals.
Salvaging unproductive relationships is antithetical to long-term prosperity and mental wellness.
Introverts have it correct by being cautious, calculating, and careful in allowing individuals within their circle of friends.
If life is the total of our choices, the people we choose within our circle of friends are a large part of that equation and should never be taken lightly.
Related: Why Pretending to Be an Extrovert Can Severely Hurt Introverts
Norton, M.I., Frost, J.H., and Ariely, D. (2007). Less is more: The lure of ambiguity, or why familiarity breeds contempt. APA PsycNet. Retrieved from: https://bit.ly/3Qifixt.