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Scientists Explain Why Smart People Prefer Fewer Friends

Scientists Explain Why Smart People Prefer Fewer Friends

Many of us have pondered at one time or another, what makes a life well lived. Is it being surrounded by family and a lot of friends? Could it be surrounded by a select handful of people in your life? Have you ever observed that really smart person in your life and the friends they surround themselves with? What about how many friends they choose to surround themselves with? It turns out that smarter people prefer fewer friends and here is why.

What Would Make Most People Happy

New research, published in the British Journal of Psychology, digs into the questions of what exactly defines a life well lived. Turns out, the hunter-gatherer lifestyles of our ancestors form the foundation of what makes us happy now. The research surveyed approximately 15,000 people between the ages of 18 to 28 years-old. Researchers found the people living in densely populated areas reported less satisfaction with the quality of their life. The next finding of the people polled suggests that the more frequent social interactions with close friends, a person has greatly improves self-reported happiness.

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Smart People Are An Exception

However, there is an exception. For those with higher intelligence quotients, these correlations drastically diminished. “The effect of population density on life satisfaction was therefore more than twice as large for low-IQ individuals”. So, the more intelligent you are, the less satisfied you are with life if you socialize with friends more frequently. But why?

Smart People Are Focused on Long-Term Objectives

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Two friends riding in the backseat of convertible

    People with higher IQ’s and the capacity to use their intelligence are less likely to spend time socializing. Why? Intelligent people are focused on long-term objectives. They are compelled and maybe a bit more driven to use their intelligence to create something bigger than themselves.

    For example, think of someone you know who went to graduate school or started their own business. While pursuing their ambitions and goals, they had to minimize social interactions to stay on task to achieve their goal. An intelligent person, on the pursuit of achieving something bigger and better than themselves, may deem social interaction as a distraction that pulls them away from long-term objectives, which in turn, may affect their overall well-being.

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    When pursuing long-term objective, the smarter individual would rather stay home and work towards their dreams and ambitions rather than going out on a Saturday evening with a few friends. It’s not that they don’t value friendship; they do. But when they are on the prowl of achieving greatness, they may deem socialization as distractions.

    How Smart People Develops Differently During Evolution of the Human Brain

    The human brain evolved to meet the demands of our ancestral environment in the savanna. Population density was low and we subsisted by living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. During these times, having frequent contact with lifelong friends was necessary for our survival and for further reproduction of our species.

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    Propelling us to today, our life has changed drastically and so have our interactions with one another. Intelligent people may be better able to deal with the new challenges that modern day life throws us. Meaning, intelligent people have a better ability to solve evolutionary and new problems and have an easier time coping and dealing with new situations.

    When you’re smarter, you’re better able to adapt to things and have an easier time merging your ancestral predispositions with the modern world. Living in a high-population area may have a smaller effect on your well-being, but it may be due to being better able to jettison the hunter-gatherer need to socialize when you’re pursuing your dreams and ambitions.

    Smart People Value Relationships In A Different Way

    Intelligent people value friendships and relationships just like anyone else, but they tend to be more selective with how they spend their time. It isn’t that they don’t cherish friendships and frequent socialization occurrences, but they also cherish their personal pursuits.

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    Tara Massan

    Founder of Be Moved, Life Coach and Writer.

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    Last Updated on January 15, 2021

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

    Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

    Posture

    First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

    • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
    • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
    • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
    • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

    All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

    Facial Expressions

    Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

    • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
    • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
    • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

    If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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    1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

    A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

    The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

    This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

    2. Relax Your Face

    New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

    The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

    To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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    3. Improve Your Eye Contact

    Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

    The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

    To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

    3. Smile More

    There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

    Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

    4. Hand Gestures

    Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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    It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

    5. Enhance Your Handshake

    In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

    “Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

    It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

    6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

    As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

    Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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    Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

    Final Takeaways

    Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

    If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

    More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

    Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

    Reference

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