How to Make Friends — and Keep Them

Relationship advice for making new friends and keeping touch with old ones — without letting your adult ADD get in the way.

Two ADHD women friends catch up while camping outdoors
Two ADHD women friends catch up while camping outdoors

Making friends? Who has time for that?

Managing the stress of life with ADHD — helping a child study for a test, organizing a week’s worth of meals, making sure medication is taken — often take precedence over a social life. Plus it’s a lot of work to make certain you don’t accidentally say or do something offensive, forget to send a thank you card, or lose concentration during a conversation.

But friends are important. And every adult with ADHD could use a sympathetic ear or a reassuring smile from time to time.

So don’t throw in the towel! Socializing may never be second nature to you, but you can learn ways to more easily keep and rekindle lost friendships:

Prioritize Staying In Touch

Comb through your social networking accounts, address book, phone contacts, and e-mail inbox to pull together a list of friends and acquaintances. Look over the list once a week or so to see if there is anyone you want to call or have lunch with.

[Click to Read: “My Best Tip for Making Friends Is…”]

Some adults with ADHD use such a list as a “friend journal,” noting each time they see or talk to a particular person. Knowing when you were last in touch helps you avoid going too long before your next contact. If you want, you can even set up structured reminders using e-mail calendar alerts, or whatever planner apps you might use, to notify you when it’s time to contact people at set intervals.

Schedule efforts to stay in touch.

Some ADHD adults spend an hour each Friday or Sunday evening calling or e-mailing friends; others set aside 10 minutes a day to text, chat, or message. Either way, it helps to reserve specific “catch up” time in your schedule. If you’re afraid you’ll lose track of time, use a timer, such as the one on your cell phone, or a Watchminder watch.

Try making time for close friends at least once a week, even if it’s only a quick phone call, e-mail, or a few text messages back and forth. If they live nearby, get together once a month, or once a year if they live far away. For acquaintances and others with whom you’re not so close (parents of your children’s classmates, for example), once-a-month contact is about right, with an outing scheduled at least once every three months.

Not every contact has to lead to a meeting or involve a blow-by-blow of your life. You can engage in a little small talk, or just let others know you’re thinking of them.

[Feeling Antisocial? Alone? Both? 3 Common ADHD Friendship Challenges]

Simple, Stress-Free Activities

Social events don’t have to be elaborate affairs. How about hosting a potluck dinner? Or meeting friends at a coffee shop, taking a walk around the neighborhood together, or simply inviting them over to watch TV with you?

Run errands with a friend. There’s also nothing wrong with asking a friend to come along when you have to go to the grocery store or car repair shop. Doing two things at once is an ADHD strength — if you’re short on time, call a friend while attending to something else on your to-do list like doing dishes, walking to an errand, or even commuting on a bus or train to work.

Plan a breakfast or lunch with friends. You need to eat anyway, so why not invite an old friend along to the restaurant?

Engage in the social activities you enjoy the most (or dislike the least). Movies, concerts, and other outings that require little conversation are less draining than parties, dinners, and other conversation-heavy activities. Vigorous sports, including tennis, racquetball, basketball, and aerobics classes, allow for even less talk, and also give you the opportunity to get some exercise. Next time you’re headed to a step aerobics class, invite a friend!

Friendship Do-Overs: Assessing What Went Wrong

First, think about some of your past friendships, and name three people you used to enjoy spending time with, but no longer see.

Ask yourself:

  • What caused the estrangement?
  • Did you have a fight?
  • Did you drift apart?
  • Did the other person stop returning your calls or e-mails?
  • Was the other person always “too busy” to get together?

You may not even know what happened — that’s OK.

Ask yourself how you feel about the demise of each relationship. Do you still miss spending time with the other person? Are you angry? Hurt? Confused?

After assessing the friendship, you may decide that it is not worth the investment of time and energy to reconnect. But even if that’s the case, do your best to let go of any negative emotions you feel toward the person or relationship — whether it’s anger, sadness, or simply regret. Recording your thoughts in a journal is a great way to let go of negativity. So is visual imagery. For example, imagine attaching your feelings to balloons and watching them float up into the sky. Or imagine smashing some dishes.

If you would like to reconnect, consider making a phone call, sending a Facebook message, or writing an e-mail telling the person that you miss him or her. Ask if it might be possible to get together to talk about the relationship. If it’s possible that you did something to hurt the other person, offer an apology. Maybe you’ll be rebuffed — or maybe you’ll find that your old friend is just as eager as you are to reconnect. You never know until you try.

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