What makes a good network? Is it 10 people? 50? 100? 500?
Quantity is something I think extroverts might experience as a special challenge. People who lean towards extroversion (including me) are always meeting people – it comes as easily as breathing. We almost can’t help doing it.
However, there’s a problem. There comes a point where you’ve met so many people that your brain just won’t hold any more. Human beings have an upper limit on the number of meaningful social connections we can maintain. There are a few different theories on what that magic number is (most famous is Dunbar’s Number), and it varies depending on what we mean by “knowing” people, but it’s probably between 150 and 250.
The challenge this presents for extroverts is that we meet waayyyyy more people than that. We say hello to everyone, and are up for a conversation with anyone!
When that’s your approach to life, it doesn’t take long to pass that 200ish mark, and then what do you do?
If you’re like me, you start forgetting people. For example, I literally cannot remember the names of any of my 3rd year university roommates. We lived together for 8 months, and I could not tell you even ONE of their names. It’s embarrassing.
It’s not just ancient history that’s leaked out of my noggin, either. I’ve met people at events within the past year, and even had substantive conversations with them, only to blank completely when approached by them at a subsequent event less than 6 months later. My brain just won’t hold them all. And it’s only getting worse as I get older.
This worries me because it’s important to me to treat people with respect, and forgetting all about them almost as soon as we part ways is definitely not a sign of respect.
As a semi public figure, I get a pass sometimes, because I can’t be expected to remember every event attendee I ever talk to. But what about extroverts who don’t have this excuse? What can they do?
The only answer I can come up with is to prioritize. Decide who should be in our 150 (or 200 or whatever), and make them the main concern. This includes our loved ones, of course, but also people we’ve identified as being the kinds of connections we most need to succeed (see this post on how to do that).
As tempting as it is to engage fully with every person who crosses our paths, maybe we should save our deep conversation time for people we know we want in our lives on a longer term basis.
Does this mean we can’t still be friendly to cashiers and cab drivers? Heck, no! But maybe take a page out of the introverts’ book and hang back a little?