Have you ever wondered why some of the smartest and most successful people often seem to have a small circle of friends?
It may seem odd that individuals with high IQs and impressive accomplishments would have fewer social contacts than their less intellectually gifted counterparts.
However, research has shown that having fewer friends may actually be an indication of intelligence.
In this blog, we will explore why intelligent people have fewer friends and what we can learn from this phenomenon.
by Brene Brown
⏱ 15 minutes reading time
🎧 Audio version available
They Don’t Have FOMO
FOMO is the fear of missing out, and it’s one thing that intelligent people are lucky enough to lack. Often, people with high IQs don’t take that much interest in materialistic things. They’re quite content to do their own thing. Pointless conversations, faking interest, trying to keep up with the latest trends and what everyone is up to are all things that they don’t fear missing out on.
In fact, smart people tend to prefer spending time alone to make better use of their time and learn new things—their brains don’t have time for meaningless chatter.
They’re More Focused on Long-Term Objectives
Many majorly successful people are introverts. Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, even comedian Will Ferrell was once a shy introvert. These celebrities don’t care so much about socializing but more about their goals. Instant gratification and temporary social highs are merely a delay to them.
Smart people are driven by a deep-seated desire to create something much larger than themselves. If they have the option of going out on a Friday night with a group of friends or staying home and working towards their goal, chances are that they’re going with the latter. It’s not that they don’t value friendship, they appreciate it deeply, but they don’t make it a priority. They would prefer to meet with a few fellow friends to share ideas than go to a rowdy party.
They Know Their Worth
It’s surprisingly easy to cut ties with a person who mistreats you when you know your worth.
People pursue meaningless friendships and relationships for a plethora of reasons, but one of them is that they get some sort of gratification from having a long list of contacts on their phones and from receiving attention on social media.
Intelligent people have already skipped through that phase of constantly needing to prove their worth. Most times, they’re already happy with themselves and, confident in their numbered relationships. In addition, they don’t rely on others to validate their worth. All the support they need or want comes from within and from, the few friends they have.
They Already Know Who Their Real Friends Are
You can be sure that intelligent people have already worked out who their real friends in life are. Smart people are also prone to letting in people who think the same as them, who share the same values, and who are in relative fields with similar interests. And when they’re confident in their relationships, they don’t really need to make any new ones.
They’ll let someone new in their lives if someone proves to be incredibly compatible with them. And even then, they don’t let their guard down and are ready to drop that friend should they prove to be toxic.
People with high IQ just prefer to keep the company of a few numbered, worthy people. This is a scientific fact. Here’s the study to prove it. Psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa from the London School of Economics looked at the happiness levels of a staggering 15,000 people with various IQ levels on two different occasions.
First when they were socializing with a group of friends, and second, when they were alone.
The mind-blowing results? People with low to average IQ reported higher levels of happiness when they were spending time with their friends. But those with higher IQ levels experienced greater happiness when they were alone.
They Don’t Like Drama
Intelligent people don’t care for drama, and you will not likely find them involved in any. They already have so many things and goals occupying their minds and their time of the day. With a plate that full, they understand how much time drama takes up and how much stress it exposes them to.
People with deep insecurities and empty lives are often the ones to initiate drama. All the constant social media posts, backstabbing, friends stealing each other’s partners, and fighting derive from low self-esteem.
Intelligent people would honestly rather open a book or watch a movie. The phenomenon of preferring to stay alone or with a small group of people they trust is backed by science, not just personal preference.
Satoshi Kanazawa, the researcher mentioned earlier, and Normal P. Li joined forces to examine what is called the “Savannah Theory” of happiness.
Also called the “Evolutionary Legacy Hypothesis” and the “Mismatched Hypothesis,” The Savannah Theory claims that people react to their circumstances the same as their ancestors did, having “evolved psychologically” based on their needs back in the old days when humans lived on the savannah.
These researchers analyzed data from previous interviews conducted by the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health in order to find a correlation, between where each of their 15,197 subjects lived and their satisfaction and happiness in their own life. The subjects either lived in highly populated urban areas or rural towns. And what do you know? Happier people lived in populations with less density. Fewer people, less drama.
They prefer deep connections
Intelligent people tend to value deeper, more meaningful connections over superficial relationships. They often place more emphasis on quality over quantity when it comes to friendships.
They would rather have a small group of genuine friends who they can connect with on a deeper level than a large group of acquaintances. This preference for deeper connections can limit the number of friendships intelligent people have. They will not invest time in friendships that do not align with their values.
They have less free time
Intelligent people are often busy pursuing their goals and interests. They have less free time to spend socializing and building relationships. Unlike their less intelligent counterparts, who may have more opportunities to socialize, intelligent people may prioritize their commitments over leisure activities or social events. This can make it difficult to form and maintain friendships, especially with individuals who do not understand their busy lifestyle.
They may struggle with social skills
Despite their intelligence, highly intelligent people may struggle socially. They may find it hard to connect with others, especially those who have different interests or perspectives. They may also find small talk or networking events challenging, as they may prefer more in-depth conversations. These challenges can inhibit the formation of new friendships or the maintenance of existing ones.
They find solitude fulfilling
Intelligent people often enjoy spending time alone to pursue their interests, recharge, and reflect. They may not feel the need to socialize as much and may prefer to spend their time in solitude or with a small group of likeminded individuals. This can also cause them to have fewer friends, as they are content being alone.
They prioritize their mental health
Intelligent people are often highly aware of their mental health and wellbeing. They prioritize their mental and emotional health to maintain high functioning and productivity. This may mean limiting social interactions to preserve their mental energy, reducing the number of friendships they have. In contrast, those who do not prioritize their mental health may prioritize socializing over their wellbeing, which can lead to forming shallow and unfulfilling friendships.
Being picky isn’t a bad thing. In fact, a lot of people wish they could be pickier about who they let into their lives.
Intelligent people don’t let people into their lives who could hold back their goals and lessen their intelligence. Whom they spend time with influences the person they become, and those people can elevate them as much as they can bring them down. Smart people not only are more self-aware but also can see through people’s “try hard” personas. Motivational Speaker Jim Rohn says, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
They Listen More Than They Talk
At the end of the day, it comes down to this! One of the ultimate reasons why intelligent people have fewer friends is a simple fact that they tend to listen more than they like to talk. In a group of friends, you’ll find the introverted genius sitting back, observing those around them, listening, and trying to understand their thinking.
That means they’re not likely to get involved in meaningless discussions and, drama. The reason they listen is that they know they can benefit more from observation.
How Many Friends is Normal?
It’s natural to compare ourselves to others in various areas of our lives, including friendships. We tend to view having a lot of friends as a marker of social capital, and think that this will lead to increased happiness and success. However, studies have shown that it’s not the quantity of friends that matters, but the quality. Having a few close friends has been linked to overall wellbeing and greater happiness. This is because close relationships provide a sense of intimacy, security, and support that is hard to find in a larger social circle.
Another reason why having fewer friends can actually make you more successful is that it allows you to focus on those relationships that matter most. When we have too many friends, we can become spread thin and end up neglecting important connections. By having a smaller, but more meaningful, friendship group, we can invest more time and effort into those relationships and reap the benefits of deeper connections.
Of course, it’s easy to feel isolated or lonely if we don’t have many friends, particularly if we don’t have any close relationships. However, it’s important to remember that friendships are not a one-size-fits-all situation. Some people thrive on socializing and need a large network of friends to feel fulfilled, while others are content with a few trusted individuals in their inner circle. What’s most important is that you feel happy and fulfilled in your friendships, regardless of how many people are in them.
It’s also worth noting that the way we make and maintain friendships has changed in the age of social media. While it’s never been easier to connect with people online, studies have shown that online friendships tend to be less meaningful and emotionally fulfilling than those formed in person. That being said, it’s still possible to make and maintain strong friendships online, but it’s important to supplement these connections with face-to-face interactions whenever possible.
What percent of friendships last?
According to a study conducted by Robin M. Dunbar, an evolutionary biologist, on average, people can only maintain stable relationships with about 150 people. Of these relationships, only 5 people can be considered “close friendships.” However, a more recent study conducted by Wibke Wurst and Julia Zimmermann found that most adults have on average two close friends. They also found that the older we get, the fewer friends we have.
Now that we know the statistics let’s explore some ways we can strengthen our friendships so that we can be part of that percentage of friendships that last. One way to do this is by staying in touch regularly. Life gets busy, and we often forget to check on our friends. Set a reminder to give your friend a call once a week or a month, schedule a lunch or a coffee date, or simply send a text to ask how they’re doing. It takes a small act of effort to let our friends know we’re thinking of them, and that can go a long way in keeping that friendship strong.
Another way to strengthen our friendships is by being present when we’re together. Put away your phone or any other distraction, and give your friend your undivided attention. Listen actively, ask questions, and share your thoughts and feelings. Be present in the moment, and let them know that you care about what they have to say.
A good friendship requires effort and communication. When we’re honest and express our feelings to our friends, it strengthens the bond between us. Be brave and vulnerable while communicating our needs and boundaries. Listen actively to their thoughts and feelings and work together to find a solution that makes both of you happy.
Lastly, one of the most important things you can do to strengthen your friendships is to show up during difficult times. When our friend is going through a tough time, being there for them can make all the difference. It’s important to be a listening ear, show empathy, and help them in any way they need. Being there for our friends will show them that we care and that they can rely on us.
Intelligent people do not necessarily have fewer friends because of their intelligence, but rather due to a combination of different factors. These factors may include their different interests, limited social skills, high standards, busy lives, and emotional intensity.
However, it is essential to note that these factors do not define or limit the social lives of intelligent individuals. It is possible to overcome these challenges and form meaningful connections with others, regardless of one’s level of intelligence.
By understanding and acknowledging these factors, intelligent people can work on developing their social skills and finding like-minded individuals on a similar path to building fulfilling friendships.
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