Monday, August 2, 2010

The Rule of Twelve

We've all heard that the human brain can accommodate about seven pieces of data at any given time.

Well, according to Malcolm Gladwell, we're also set up to handle approximately twelve serious friendships/relationships. This is not only the number we appear to be biologically programmed for, it's also, sensibly, the number of people we can consistently spend time with.

If you doubt this, ask yourself: How many apostles were there?


Evidently Jesus agreed with Gladwell.

This rule of twelve seems completely reasonable to me, and it probably works pretty well for most folks.

My problem is:

1) I have 6 siblings and
2) I have 6 kids (plus a couple of really nice kids-in-law).

I'm already past the magic number, and we haven't even started on my 10 grandchildren yet. Not to mention numerous adorable nieces and nephews, cool aunts and uncles, and various friends.

After I read the Gladwell essay, I spent a little time with an Excel spreadsheet (always my favorite way to organize myself) doing a little exercise called "Who Are My Twelve?"

We won't go into who is and who isn't (because you never know who's going to be bored enough to check out my blog), but the way it worked out for me is that there are maybe 6 or 8 people who fit cleanly within my twelve and a butt-load more that should be there/could be there if only there were more hours in the day.

And what I do is take those remaining slots and peanut butter spread them across all my other loved ones. If there's a recipe for stress and guilt, I suspect it includes peanut butter.

So how about you?

Who are your twelve?


  1. How about you, you ask? I say pass the peanut butter and make it crunchy!


  2. I hadn't heard about the brain accommodating seven pieces of data - and I don't believe it. Mine can't!
    The rule of twelve does have the ring of truth about it, though. I do seriously wonder about these folk who have hundreds!

  3. My twelve would be the twelve jurors who acquitted me when I was so obviously.... oh, let's not go there.
    Or the twelve days of the week.
    But not the twelve twelves because that's just gross.

    Have a nice day, Boonsong (the Twelfth)

  4. maybe 12 is more like a rolling count? Someone moves out of slot number 8 while they're off on vacation for 2 weeks and someone else moves into that slot the next day when you get a phone call from them and decide to get together that weekend. Sort of like a revolving door. That makes sense to me anyway.

  5. You know what? I've never been much of a rules girl :)

    Peace ~ Rene

  6. This is a question worth pondering. Who to cross off the list??

  7. I gotta pick 12? Uh! The pressure.

    I guess my family - that's 4
    My best friend, Sasha - who I surprising haven't talked to him in such a long time. That's 5.

    My best gal pal Vida. That's 6.

    My Hubz - That's 7.

    Any co-worker - That's 8.

    And you, my dear - That's 9.

    That's it. Everyone else sucks.

  8. I have about 5 or 6 I think are very close, very serious relationships. All others are at a different level, although I love them all, they are not the folks I call at 2 AM to help me hide a dead body.

  9. 12 sounds about right. 8 would be taken up right away by family, the others are friends plus one esteemed colleague. I don't know how people manage hundreds of relationships. I'd rather be on a few people's list of twleve that on 1,000 people's list of 1,000. - G

  10. All I know is that all of those in my dozen are half-cracked!

  11. Well, there's Mary Hand and her five sisters. That's half a dozen right there.

  12. Too funny. I'm new here (referred by Ridgely) and love your writing, your humor.

    As far as 12, well, there's my hubby, my three girls (plus one son-in-law ... if I have to), my grandson ... do dogs count? And cats? I prefer my two dogs and two cats over many of humans in my circle.

  13. I have eleven immediate family members and the dog.. and that makes 12. I could easily spend the entire summer with my grands, doing kid stuff. I like kids, they are not nearly as cranky as adults:)

  14. 要在憂患恥辱的環境裡,創造我們自力更生的新生活。..................................................

  15. 生存乃是不斷地在內心與靈魂交戰;寫作是坐著審判自己。. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

  16. I need to start cleaning house and telling people they did not make the cut off.

  17. Mine change week-by-week because I truly love all my friends, old and new. I just don't get to see them all as often as I would like. But twelve feels like a small number. That's only six couples, and if you assume that your parents make up two... that's barely a dinner party!

  18. I seem to do things in three, seven and twelve and cannot figure out if it is from my church/biblical up bringing...I have way too many to count, but I can be sensible...and what Rachel said could work!

  19. This is an interesting post. I have three kids with two spouses, one spouse of my own, seven grandchildren, one brother with a wife and two kids, one sister with a husband and a kid, and a father. We're already up to 21. My friend who is single and has parents, one sister, one brother-in-law, one niece and one nephew rates a 6. But she can't understand why I don't always have time for her!


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