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3 Essential Ingredients of Enduring Friendships, According to a Writer Who Interviewed 100 Sets of Friends

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When you’re in the middle of building a business, it’s incredibly easy to let friendships fall by the wayside. Securing your financial future and building something to be proud of can easily seem more important than grabbing a beer with your buddies after work. But there are at least three reasons why letting your friendships wither due to your professional ambitions will come back to haunt you. 

The incredible value of long-lasting friendships. 

First, as entrepreneur and former president of Y Combinator Sam Altman has pointed out, friends are often a wellspring of great ideas. Not only do they spur our thinking with their own experiences and perspective, but friendship offers you the safety to nurture your biggest, craziest ideas. True friends help give us the confidence to dream big.  

Second, having friends of different ages and backgrounds has been shown to expand your mind, making you smarter, more resilient, and more open to new ideas — all key qualities for success. Finally, being with other people you like is probably the best stress buster known to science. 

And that’s not even mentioning the sheer joy and satisfaction friendship brings. 

What 100 interviews revealed about friendships that last

So how do you nurture your friendships despite the craziness of mid-life responsibilities? Plenty of scientists and therapists have weighed in on the subject, but writer Julie Beck has a unique position from which to speak on the subject. The author of a series of interviews called “The Friendship Files,” Beck has spoken with 100 sets of friends about what drew them together and kept them tight over the years. 

As the project draws to a close, Beck recently reflected in the Atlantic on what she learned about how to build friendships that last. The article is full of touching stories of friendship and is well worth a read in full, but here are three essential ingredients, according to Beck. Ignore them in your own relationships at your peril. 

1. Time 

Research shows that you need roughly 50 hours together to make a casual friend and more than 100 to become close friends. If that sounds like a lot to fit in between all the responsibilities and cares of mid-life, you’re not wrong. Experts insist that the sheer craziness of our schedules is one of the biggest reasons it often feels so hard to make new friends as an adult

But according to Beck, time together is also essential. “Sometimes that time builds up slowly, as it did for two neighbors who have lived across the hall from each other for 20 years,” she writes. “In other circumstances, those hours get put in really quickly.” But whether the hours slowly accrete over decades or pile up suddenly over mere days, there is no way around putting plenty of time into building friendships. 

2. Rituals 

So how do you find that time when life is so busy? One solution many of the friends Beck talked to was creating rituals. Whether it’s a monthly supper, a weekly walk, or a twice yearly reunion trip, it’s often easier to stay connected with your friends when you create a recurring event on your calendar. Set up the plan once and then allow habit to carry you towards greater time together. 

“I personally find that the effort of coordinating hangs (or even phone calls) is the biggest barrier to seeing my friends. It’s much easier when something is baked into my schedule, and all I have to do is show up,” Beck confesses.  Psychologists confirm that set rituals make friendships easier to sustain over the long haul. 

3. Grace 

No matter how good your intentions and excellent your planning skills, we all sometimes let our friends down. Those who see their friendships endure across the decades take those inevitable disappointments with grace, according to Beck. 

What exactly does she mean by grace? Beck offers two interweaving definitions: “One is the forgiveness that we offer each other when we fall short. The other is the space that creates for connections–and reconnections–that feel nothing short of miraculous.” 

Interested in more of what Beck learned from speaking to 100 sets of friends? Check out her article here

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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