Social Skills 101 for ADHD Adults

ADD adults: Can't read social cues? Always find yourself saying the wrong thing in conversation? Strengthen existing relationships, make new friends, and improve your social skills with these simple strategies.


Having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) can make us feel bad about ourselves, just for being different from everyone else. And we feel worse when we try to improve our lives by using the wrong strategies. Mainstream advice doesn’t take into account the wiring of ADD/ADHD brains. When this advice doesn’t help us, we feel like we’ve failed.

As a result, many people with ADD/ADHD grow up to be BMWers -- people who B-tch, Moan, and Whine! This is one of the reasons why adults with ADD/ADHD often have trouble making new friends and keeping old friends. It’s also why many of us struggle to get along with our family members, coworkers, and neighbors.

If you are a BMWer, don’t fret. With a little work, you can adjust your attitude and improve your social skills.

Accept compliments with grace -- even if you don’t agree with them. This will go a long way in helping your self-esteem. You’ll find that most people mean what they say. If your friend says she likes your haircut, believe it. If you argue with her compliment by saying, “This is the worst haircut I’ve ever had!” you’re telling your friend that her opinion is wrong.

Avoid putting yourself down, especially in front of others. There’s a big difference between discussing your challenges and putting yourself down because of them. It’s OK to say, “I wish I had finished before the weekend, but, unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time.” A BMWer might say, “I’m such an idiot! Why does this always happen to me? No matter what I do, I can never get it together!” People often view self-deprecation as “fishing for compliments,” and feel a responsibility to make you feel better. After a while, this becomes annoying, and you can lose friends who consider you to be high-maintenance.

Surround yourself with positive, happy people. When you choose to spend time with other BMWers, you’re choosing to be one. Make an effort to ditch the BMWer within, and invite a pleasant coworker to join you for coffee, take a walk with a friendly neighbor, or reconnect with a supportive friend. You’ll be nurtured by the positive energy. And happy people are more understanding when you do find yourself running late or forgetting a birthday!

More on Adult ADD/ADHD Social Skills

Making Friends: Help for ADD/ADHD Adults
How to Build Better Relationships: Advice for ADD/ADHD Adults
Friendship as an ADD/ADHD Treatment
Does ADD/ADHD Sabotage Your Relationships?
How to Make More Time for Friends
Are You Listening? How to Shine in Social Settings With ADD/ADHD
How to Make a Good First Impression
How to Read Body Language
Got Tact?
Readers' Biggest Social Blunders

This article appeared in the Spring 2011 issue of ADDitude. SUBSCRIBE TODAY to ensure you don't miss a single issue.

TAGS: ADHD Social Skills, ADHD and Relationships, ADHD Communication Skills

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