Friendships

Nobody Likes a Debbie Downer

Is every conversation a venting session? Your negativity and self depreciation may be keeping friends at bay. Follow these rules for developing happier social skills.

adult woman with ADHD who is being negative and self-critical
illustration of angry, annoyed-looking young woman

Having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (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 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 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!

 

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