9 lessons to maintain lifelong friendships

I was leafing through this amazing book “Big Friendship” when I realised I should make a few notes to share with you. A journey across the lifelong friendship of two companions — Ann and Aminatou — the book reveals their individual struggles, successes and experiences as they rediscover themselves and their bond. As I read on, I sensed “friendships” often take a back seat when compared to any other relationship.

A friend gets married, and suddenly it’s okay to not be available anymore. It is assumed you are busy in your new life. A friend moves away, to a different city, and you lose touch. People often schedule time with their partners and family. But how often do you do that for your friends?

Building a lifelong friendship is a commitment. A commitment one must be willing to keep irrespective of where life takes you. Summarising some time-tested life learnings to identify, nurture and build stronger bonds:

  1. Effortless and Easy-going: Friendship is attractiveness in style. It’s hard to articulate why you’re attracted to your companion, you just are. It’s almost like falling in love with each other’s brains. Sometimes what makes a bond special is the fact that it seems so effortless!
  2. Don’t be a social moocher! There are two kinds of friends — Social moochers or Initiators. Moochers passively rely on other people to fill their social calendar for them while initiators proactively schedule activities with their friends. Remember — creating memories through shared experiences is the foundation of lifelong friendships.
  3. All friendships are found on spending some serious time together! According to research, it takes 140 hours to be good friends with someone and over 300 hours to call someone your best friend. The latter may seem like a lot of hours but actually, it’s only 12.5 days (only slightly longer than an average honeymoon).
  4. Safety Net: A feeling of safety is at the heart of most good friendships. Sharing stories about family, your hometown, people you’ve loved along the way — brings people closer. It’s the absence of fear or shame in sharing things. The absence of misunderstandings. The absence of insecurity is the hallmark of a good friendship. Share your fears and regrets — let your guard down!
  5. Give Assurances: Even the closest friends need assurances. Give verbal or non-verbal assurances to your friend now and then. Tell them they matter. Show them you plan to be a part of each other’s future. It’s important to respect your work ethic while continuing to stick to people in the long term. Showing up for your friends in a real way is the best way to settle into a deep sense of security.
  6. Shine Together: In helping a friend be their best and relying on their help in return is what Ann defines as Shine Theory. It’s the practice of cultivating a spirit of genuine happiness and excitement. Cheerleading our friends when they are doing well, and being there for them when they aren’t is the only path to building lifelong friendships. Replace the impulse of competition with one of collaboration and you’ll soon discover what I mean.
  7. Identify the keepers: Some friends are keepers and some just aren’t. Period. When someone is tearing you down, it’s almost always because they lack confidence or support themselves.
  8. Stretch a little, and then some more. Big Friendships don’t happen out of the blue. They are created. They are nurtured. Just as stretching before you exercise is important — it’s important to make efforts to adapt to the differences. For some people, asking for support could be a very big stretch as it makes them feel vulnerable. But remember — vulnerability is the cornerstone of confidence. Sharing when you’re your weakest, not only shapes your bond for the better but sends out the message — you’re just like everybody else. It’s okay to feel down. It’s okay to feel alone. Friends that go out of their way to be there for you (ones who stretch out of their comfort) are the real diamonds.
  9. Friends are your sounding boards. They are your source of validation when you feel alone. With them around, you feel seen without having to explain in too many words. Use them as your sounding board to bounce ideas, thoughts and feelings. Sometimes, it’s powerful to have your thoughts echoed back to you.

Parting words — No friendship is too big to fail. Friends drift apart all the time. Friendships often run their course, and 7–8 years is long enough to develop poor communication habits. If you don’t communicate well, the internet presents dozens of tiny opportunities for you to misinterpret each other.

I am a brand consultant and content writer exploring different aspects of writing as I hold a pen in one hand and coffee in another.