An ADDitude reader recently asked: “Ever since I can remember, I have had trouble making friends and keeping them. I am not good on the phone, so I don’t always return calls. I have trouble with time, so I am frequently late to dinners or movie dates with friends. I get impatient in conversations and want to move on to another topic. At this point, I feel I don’t have anything to offer as a friend. I am a sophomore in college and I would like to have a few friends — or at least one. Do you have any advice or strategies for me?”
Making and keeping friends is challenging for many people. Friendship takes time, energy, and commitment, and for those of us with ADHD, our struggles with time management, communication, and understanding social cues present big obstacles. But the rewards are worth the effort. Friends made in college can last a lifetime. Good friends coach each other through life’s tough moments and celebrate good times together.
I encourage you to look at your college years as a time of self-discovery and growth. The key to building friendships is to know yourself and the challenges your ADHD creates. You have done that already: You have identified your dislike of talking on the phone, your trouble making appointments, and your impatience during conversations. This is a good start. This year might be better for you, so be open to that possibility.
Friendships with ADHD people are difficult, but they can happen by using the strategies outlined here.
You say that it is hard for you to talk on the phone and to return calls. This is common with ADHDers, because we can be restless and distractible, and we can’t always find the right words on the spot. There are several strategies that can help. First, get caller ID on your phone, so that you have a moment to decide whether you are ready to speak to the person calling. Seeing the name of a friend can prompt you to remember the last thing you discussed or planned together. Even if you don’t remember, it’s OK. You can just pick up and say, “Hi, Anne, how’s your day going?”
When the phone rings, remember that it is sometimes easier to take a quick call than to call someone back.
> Limit distractions, such as music or the television.
> Have a notepad and pen ready to write down any plans you make.
> Keep the conversation friendly and to the point. If you’d rather text than talk, let people know. “I’m a texter. Just text me and I’ll get right back to you.”
> You can return phone calls with a text. First, listen to the phone message and write down on a notepad what was said. Then, write your response in a text. “I got your message, thanks. I can meet you at 6:00 p.m. at Tony’s Pizza.” This way, you have a record of your plan, and you can transfer that to your calendar, either the one on your phone or in the calendar/planner you carry with you.
> Try to return calls (via phone or text) within 24 to 48 hours, so you’re not putting it off, which will make you feel guilty.