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Is your collection of friends balanced?

“..some friends are more equal than others.  Robin Dunbar an anthropologist and psychologist believes that we can have up 150 people who we know by face and name.  I believe these 150 people can be grouped into six types of friends”

  1. Your ‘bury the body’ friends ( I will explain later)

  2. Your ‘shared experience’ long term friends

  3. Your energizer friends

  4. Your ‘mentor’ friends

  5. Your work friends

  6. Your distant past friends

The key is to have balance and to rekindle some friendships you have left unattended.

Let’s look at the type of friends we have.

Your ‘bury the body for’ friends (usually 5 or less)

Meaning if they called you, late at night, and needed help, you would be there trusting them that it was for the right reasons.  You would take that risk.  That is how much they would mean to you.


You share a bond that is virtually unbreakable.  When something big happens in your life — good or bad — these are the first friends you call.  At times, they even sense where you are headed — your thoughts, feelings, and actions — before you know it yourself.  Your siblings may not fit here, they often can be found in the next two categories.  That is the truth.  Don’t sweat on it.


Typically, you have invested hundreds of hours with these friends, sharing many past experiences, and whilst distance can alienate you, as soon as you are together the good times roll.  I have four such friends. 

Your ‘shared experience’ long term friends (these would normally be practically limited to 15 or less)

These friends have similar interests, a long shared history and make you feel comfortable. In many cases, you belong to the same groups or share affiliations.  Your siblings, close school and university friends can fit here as you will have many shared experiences together.


Your energizer friends (can be a much larger group)

These are your ‘good time friends’ who can make a good day great.  However, when times are tough, you are ill, or even in hospital do not expect them to be around.  They are addicted to good times not hard or sad times. Be careful to not confuse these friends with the above two categories.


As long as you know who they are then enjoy them for what they are.  You are only in trouble if most of your friends fit into this category.  I have seen cases when the tide turns, people are jettisoned by these so called close friends.

Your ‘mentor’ friends

Girls, this is the missing link in your generation. Mentors for young people are a lot less common.  Influencers are in no way a mentor as they are too distant and see their followers as a revenue machine.


Mentors will have worked with you closely, so they know your strengths and weaknesses and appreciate your value. In other words, they care enough to be a supporter.  You will contact that mentor who has accumulated wisdom in the area where you seek guidance.

When I started work at Arthur Anderson & Co, I was on cloud nine. I had been hand picked to join a specialised team. Within a year or so, it became quite clear that auditing and myself were not good bedfellows and the experience of underperforming compared to my peers was undermining my confidence. An audit senior on a large assignment took time to open my mind and put the jigsaw puzzle together for me. The eight weeks I worked with him transformed my career and gave me techniques that I carry forward right to today.

It was a gift generously passed to me and one which years later, I made a special effort to meet up with him to explain the gratitude I still hold for him. We never talked about mentorship but it is very clear in my mind that is the precise role Ken took on my behalf. When you find a manager, supervisor or colleague who “gets you”, always remain in touch no matter where your career has taken you, for in a difficult situation they’ll always be able to get you to see the right answer.

Your work friends

These friends will join with you in all work related functions but, for many reasons, do not become joined into your closer friendship circles.


You spend so much time at work that it is normal to find many like-minded people either at your office, at clients or other connected parties.  The key is to invest time to maintain the linkage, to both current and past workmates, or at the very least kept them in your memory banks as a ‘must contact’ when next in their neighbourhood.

Your current work friendships can be very beneficial as you have their support when things are not going well.


I met the other week a friend whom I worked with 44 years ago.  Yes 44 years ago.  We had never gone out to dinner when we were workmates, it did not matter back then, albeit we always had a fun conversation.

I was part of a group of graduates in 1976 who had joined Arthur Andersen & Co, a now defunct firm of accountants.  At around the 30th anniversary I made contact with my ex-colleagues, and we had an amazing gathering and two more followed in the next five years. 


Your distant past friends

Whilst you may not have made contact for 5,10,15 years you will often be surprised how quickly you can rekindle an old relationship.  The reason why you have temporarily lost contact is simply you ran out of time.  Maintaining friendships takes time, a lot of time.


These old friends are often the best source of friends if you are finding a depleted support group in times of trouble because:

  • They know you, by the age of seven your character has formed, and you have not changed that much since.

  • You have many shared memories.

  • They did not ghost you – they, like you, just got too busy.

Never forget these friends. 

Extract from ‘Don’t Say I Never Told You’ Series 1

-A guide to life from a loving father to his millennial daughters

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