I am very much a people person. Even when my job isn’t working directly with people, what makes it worthwhile is knowing that what I’m doing will make someone’s life a little smoother, a little happier, and a little less annoying. People are very important to me, which is why this is a nightmare of mine:

Me: Nice to meet you

Them: Nice to see you again

I’ve been working real hard lately to not beat myself up about shortcomings. Instead, I try to understand what causes them and either accept it, or come up with a way to mitigate it beyond “just try harder”. Even though they are the part of my life that makes me happiest, learning about Dunbar’s number helped me understand why I lose track of them, and Clickety has given me a way to remind myself about the awesome parts of the awesome people I meet.

Robin Dunbar studies the sizes of primate brains and compares it to the size of their social groups. Based on his research, humans can have stable social bonds with about 150 people (1). This does not include relationships that are “inactive,” such as someone you went to school with but haven’t talked to in, well, too long, or people that you know of but wouldn’t feel comfortable sitting next to them and chatting if you saw them at a coffee shop.

Dunbar’s studies also postulate that there are actually several overlapping circles. You don’t have 150 people you care about equally - you have a core group that you spend the majority of your social time with, and then increasingly larger groups that you belong to but spend proportionally less time with. These groups aren’t set in stone, either. People move in and out of these circles as what you’re doing changes (I have a drastically different circle now than I did when I was active duty).

Primates depend on social bonds for survival - working with each other is how we’ve conquered our evolutionary obstacles. Maintaining those bonds isn’t free, though - apes must spend hours each day grooming each other to create bonds. Another neat hypothesis is that language actually allowed us to expand our circles. Humans, instead of pick bugs off of each other, can just say “Hey buddy, I like hanging out with you, what if we go fishing together?”

2 baby monkeys at water's edge. One of them is reaching in to fish out a banana peel and is probably thinking that it would be convenient to convince the other monkey to join them using only the power of sound.

Photo by Tobias Reich Unsplash

Dunbar’s numbers reminded me about how I’ve adapted on my own to effectively meeting people who will be important to my inner bubble. I will try to learn things about people before I meet them - having a general picture of a person helps me store details better. For instance, I was going to a family gathering where I was going to not just meet my partner’s parents, but the whole family and their closest friends. I spent the ride over asking details - who was married to whom, what are the things they like to talk about, any topics I should avoid if at all possible. Front-loading this context allowed me to be more present in the conversations because I wasn’t worrying I’d forget their name or blunder into a sensitive topic.

Why am I musing about anthropology on Clickety’s blog? Quick recap so far:

  1. Dunbar’s number shows there is a limit to the “bubble” of people we can actively care about.
  2. The people in those bubbles are in flux.
  3. Language allows us to “bubble up” with someone rapidly (and to refresh that relationship if we’ve drifted out of each other’s bubbles).

There is a limit to the number of people we can actively care about - but because those people are in flux, the importance of being able to quickly spin a relationship back up is important. Clickety allows us to capture and store those details that make it easier for us to be present in a discussion. All those personal details that don’t come up super often, but you definitely want to keep track of? Store them all as notes on a person’s profile card. I like to use emoji for quick reference…

Notes field with information like what their work strengths are, what things burn them out, and the name of that cat (Dr. Floof) that keeps walking in front of their camera

For me, memory is like velcro; in order to jog a memory, I need a “hook” to catch it. It becomes easier to remember important things by thinking of the events I’ve interacted with someone at and the other people that were with us. Looking at the people in my Clickety groups helps me to remember more, and with the emotions that were evoked (as opposed to merely reading through details, which feels more brain-only for me).

We experience people grouped into contexts - we think of our family in one bubble, teammates in another, along with various cohorts of friends. All those social circles you belong to? We represent those in Groups in Clickety.

A keep in touch board in Clickety is for a group of people you want to, well, keep in touch with. You know that moment where you’re busy and some hook catches on your brain velcro and you think to yourself “Oh yeah, I should reach out to them?” But if you don’t have time to do it immediately, you forget about it again (and again and again, if you’re me). If you have a minute to add them to a keep in touch board, you can set intentions about how regularly you want to keep in touch. Since they are in a Clickety group, when you do have time to reach out, they’ll be there at the top waiting for you (instead of only floating in your brain waiting for you to think of rustic brooms or something again).

We’re here to help you with long-term storage about human interactions so you can move a relationship into active Dunbar numbers quickly and with less anxiety. We help keep context and details recorded; you just have to focus on the relationship.

  1. it’s actually a range of around 100 to 250 ↩︎