Friendship gives flavor to life. Rather than treating friendship as a nice-to-have luxury, reserved for people who have their lives in perfect order, we should cultivate friendship intentionally and treat it as the necessity it is. We need to be intentional in our pursuit of it, especially as we age.Like a marriage, the best friendships require investment, compromise, and sacrifice. By creating shared alignment, trust, and companionship, strong friendships nourish the soul and make life more vibrant.
I’m not talking about the temporary, friction-free relationships that social technologies make so easy. No. I’m talking about friendships where two identities merge. The ones that stretch across decades, the ones that blossom into extended family, and the kinds of friends who your kids call “Auntie” and “Uncle.”Friendship is vital to your whole spirit — your being, your character, your mind, and your health. And yet, so often, humans don’t realize what’s essential until they are in trouble, so they dismiss the power of friendship when things are going well.I take extra care to prioritize extended time with friends. If you want a deep conversation, you need time. Instead of spending two or three hours with somebody, I prefer to spend two or three days with them. More, if possible.After 24 hours, the small talk disappears, and after 48 hours, philosophizing is inevitable. The benefits are exponential.
John O’Donahue asks: “When was the last time you had a great conversation? A conversation that wasn’t just two intersecting monologues, but when you overheard yourself saying things you never knew you knew, that you heard yourself receiving from somebody words that found places within you that you thought you had lost, and the sense of an “eventive” conversation that brought the two of you into a different plain and then forthly, a conversation that continued to sing afterwards for weeks in your mind? Conversations like that are food and drink for the soul.
Like a massage, time softens the human heart. With each tick of the clock, the soul awakens to the layers of trust and tender vulnerability required for a deep conversation. Nurtured by the tender cradle of companionship, time steers conversations in rich and unexpected directions.A good conversation exists at the outer edge of consciousness. Luckily, there are proven ways to spark transcendent dialogue. Laugh. Have fun. Don’t gossip. Find a quiet place. Then, shake things up and go somewhere else. By changing your environment, you change the energy of conversation, and when you switch up the energy and move to a new place, people blossom into a kaleidoscope of personalities.The benefits of friendship compound. Friends who act with grace and sincerity over a series of repeated interactions will be gifted with selfless generosity and loving kindness.
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David Perell is a writer and host of the North Star podcast.