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How to Make Friends When You Have ADHD


Updated June 16, 2014

What Are Ways To Improve Social Relationships?

Cynthia Hammer:The first step to improved social interactions is to become aware of what you are doing that is harmful. Monitor yourself. Are you truly listening or are you only waiting until you can put in your two cents worth? If so, make a commitment, that for the next month, you will focus completely on being a good listener--you will hyperfocus on this. If you say anything at all, it will be only to ask a simple, short question to clarify or expand what the speaker is saying.

If you are listening to just one other person, occasionally ask her if you can say back what you heard her saying. And then just do it, simply and concisely. Don't add anything. Give her a chance to say if you have correctly understood what she said and then let her proceed while you return to your role as the good listener. Practice, practice, practice these skills.

Are you interrupting others? Again, awareness is the key. Become aware of yourself in your interactions. If you are interrupting, take steps to stop it. When you feel the urge coming on, take a sip of water, make a note, take a deep breath and hold it for a second, think, "relax." Don't interrupt...and if you do, immediately recognize it, apologize for interrupting and encourage the speaker to go on.

What about changing the topic, going off on an unrelated tangent? Again, become aware if you have a tendency to do this and stop yourself. People don't appreciate it and will not view you kindly.

For the bigger problems--not paying enough attention and consistent attention to your friends--reflect on how much you want to improve your relationships. How much do you value having good friendships and what are you willing to do? Good friendships don't just happen. They take nurturing and care. Are you willing to do what is necessary? Will you make good friendships and relationships a priority? When you have the choice between learning about your new computer and going to a movie with a friend, will you put a higher value on going to the movie because of the long-term payoff? The choice is yours.

Put the pieces into place for nurturing your relationships. When you are talking with a friend, make your plans for the next time you will get together, make a firm commitment and get it on your calendar. Learn to use a computer-based program that will remind you of important dates--birthdays, anniversaries, etc. Get all the contact information for each of your friends recorded. Buy assorted cards and stamps to have on hand so you can easily remember birthdays and anniversaries. When shopping, pick up neat items you can use as unexpected gifts for friends. Buy tickets to some activity and ask them to go with you.

Purposely tell them how much you appreciate their friendship, how much you enjoy the time you spend together, how much you look forward to some event you will be going to together in the future. Don't let too much time go by without being in touch with those whose friendship you value.

And Poor Memory?

Hammer: Unfortunately, that is not going to go away. Learn strategies to minimize the impact. Make notes on your friends--their likes and dislikes, their interests, their important relationships and activities--and review them before your next get-together. Subscribe to a service that will send birthday cards, etc. for you. You can set it up for the whole year at one time. When you learn the names of new neighbors, write them down and review occasionally. Prepare before meeting with someone you haven't seen for awhile. Ask about what you know is important to them and what is going on in their lives. Demonstrate that you remember important details of things they have told you.

People with ADHD have much to contribute to relationships--your enthusiasm, your creativity, your energy, your humor. Don't let your light hide under a bushel because others never give themselves the chance to know you better. By learning and practicing simple techniques for healthy social interactions, you will be on your way to a bounty of good relationships and a ever ready supply of meaningful friendships.


Cynthia Hammer, MSW. Personal interview/correspondence. 25 March, 2008.

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