Communication Part 4: Why is it so HARD to stay in communication?

Charles McCrumb Small Business IT Project Analyst, Office Automation Expert Herbert, McCrumb & Associates
Charles McCrumb
Small Business IT Project Analyst, Office Automation Expert
Herbert, McCrumb & Associates

My blog post of course, with my pithy / brilliant remarks in RED.

Dunbar’s Number suggests that we can only keep between 150 and 200 social relationships, maximum.

Now we all know (and supposedly care about) FAR MORE people than that. Here’s where Dunbar’s Number and the problem of communication come together:
How do you stay in touch with 500 people, let alone 1000, 1500, or 2000?
Let that sink in…

If you rely on your memory, your communications will be sporadic at best, and likely they will be quite shallow and superficial. Where’s the love? Will they think you really care about them at all? Unlikely.

I say “good” system, because it doesn’t need to be perfect. All you need to be is better than everyone else, and almost EVERYONE is really terrible at it. Sorry folks, even you sales types are really, REALLY bad at it too!

It’s time for the math again (I apologize, but it illustrates the problem and solution properly).

If you have let’s say 500 to keep the numbers manageable, (they get crazy if we go bigger, and WE ALL NEED TO GO BIGGER!) school chums, work associates from over the years, family members, extended-family members, neighbors, and close friends that you’ve made from any of these sources, and of course your mate.

How frequently will you communicate?

  • School Friends – Quarterly (12 Weeks)
  • Extended Family (cousins, aunt / uncle, grandparents) – Quarterly (12 Weeks)
  • Work Associates – Quarterly (12 Weeks)
  • Close friends – Monthly (4 Weeks)
  • Neighbors – Monthly (4 Weeks)
  • Family – Parents, Siblings – (4 Weeks minimum)
  • Infrequent Business Partners – (4 Weeks)
  • Daily communication to your mate. Try to say something nice to her / him everyday.

I need to emphasize this: Make your communications (other than to your mate) during the WORK WEEK! If you communicate all 7 days, your family will feel ignored, and won’t feel the love from you. At all costs, keep your communications for the work week! Try to save your marriage, and your relationships with your kids.

Okay, that said, back to my normally scheduled post…

Say you’ve got 40 people from the above list that you need to communicate with monthly. (500 – 40 = 460)

Your mate, daily. 460 – 1 = 459
And the rest, (459) Quarterly 459 / 12 weeks = 38.25 communications per week

Now, let’s add back in the rest: daily communication with your mate: 7
Family, close friends and neighbors 40 / mo / 4 = 10 / week

That’s 38.25 communications per week for School chums, extended family, and work associates. 7 per week for your mate, and neighbors, family and close friends 10.

That’s 56 per week (11+ per DAY) !!!

That’s a LOT of communication.
It works out to 2,920 INDIVIDUAL communications per year!

Quite literally, ALMOST NOBODY is doing this!

How long, (without a system in place to remind you) before people start to fall between the cracks?

How can you help anyone if they forget you are there? Remember, I’ve already stated the [completely true!] premise that almost everyone is REALLY BAD at communicating. How can you remind them that you are available to help them, if you are forgetting that THEY exist? Unless you are communicating regularly with those folk, what kind of relationship do you have with them. “I know them, or used to. They know me, or used to.”

That’s NOTHING, and worse than useless: It sets up the premise in your mind that “My network of friends, colleagues, family members and acquaintances is valuable to me”. It’s nothing of the sort. Unless you communicate regularly, they (because of Dunbar’s Number) aren’t even going to think of you, and you won’t think of them until you get into trouble!

I have one friend from Junior High School (called Middle School in a lot of places), that has 1441 friends on Facebook and undoubtedly many more from other places. It’s a collection, worth absolutely nothing, because he will [Facebook] friend a person, and never speak/message/type any personal (“Remember when…?”) communication with them.

I have another friend in the film industry (filmmaker, actor, director, special effects, etc.) that has 1,200 contacts (not a collection, but VALUABLE to him in that he communicates with them REGULARLY. He has a system that reminds him at least quarterly, if not every six-weeks.

Dunbar’s Number is a REAL PROBLEM that the great majority of people struggle with, without even knowing it. The guys at Manager-Tools have a podcast about Building and Maintaining Your Network. Give it a listen, and build a system that works for you. They say that you can use Outlook, and I agree: You CAN use Outlook.

I CHOOSE NOT TO, because I don’t like the interruption in my daily / weekly workflow that Outlook enforces. I may be working on a project or several projects that I can’t take my attention off of during a particular workday or days. I usually have time later in the same week to crank out those correspondences. I much prefer using an Excel spreadsheet (with conditional formatting) to help me keep on track.

Send me your email address and I’ll freely send that spreadsheet (without my contacts, sorry) to you for your use.


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