Friendships

“Why Don’t I Have Any Friends?”

“I will be late. I will forget plans. I will miss your birthday. I will seem like a self-centered and ditzy friend at times. But I promise I’m trying, because I really do love you.” 10 ways any adult with ADHD can become a better friend, starting today.

An overhead view of a group of young adults with ADHD discuss why they don't have any friends at a table.
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You've Gotta Have Friends

"I don't have any friends." It's a common lament from people with ADHD, who can have more difficulty than others making and keeping up close relationships. We have to struggle to create the structures and observe the protocols that friendships depend on — from being on time and remembering names to putting our foot in our mouths and not getting too close too quickly. But everyone with ADHD can make — and needs — friends. Here’s how to do it.

A woman with ADHD writes a list of reasons why she doesn't have any friends.
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Make a List

Make a list of all your acquaintances and friends, past and present. Go through your address book (do you still have one?), your cell phone, and your e-mail. Write down everyone you enjoy spending time with. Reach out to one person every week or so to meet for lunch or to call and chat with.

A woman with ADHD exercises with new acquaintances. She can no longer say, "I don't have any friends."
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Have Fun, Find Friends

Go to places or participate in activities that you enjoy. It is easier to begin a conversation with someone when you have something in common. Think about the activities you enjoy and search the Web or local paper for groups that share your interest. If you like cooking, take a cooking class at an adult education center. If you like exercise, join a gym.

A woman with ADHD stops to chat with a neighbor. She no longer thinks, "I don't have any friends."
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Do Errands, Connect with a Buddy

Is your life too hectic to make time for friends? Consider asking a friend to keep you company while you run errands or get your car fixed. Not only are you being productive and crossing things off your to-do list, you are spending valuable time with a buddy.

An adult with ADHD holds a smart phone, getting ready to call a friend.
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Put It on Your To-Do List

Build time into your schedule to connect with friends. You might want to set aside 10 or 15 minutes a day or take an hour on the weekend to call and catch up. Once a week, try to get together with friends who live nearby. For friends who live farther away, every few months is fine for a get-together.

A woman with ADHD sits on a bench and talks to another woman
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Improve Your Listening Skills

Make a conscious effort to listen to and understand the people around you. Conversations are a dialogue, so you need to not talk over another person’s words. Pay attention to how often you are talking during a conversation. Instead, tune in to your friend’s words and visualize the story he is telling.

A woman with ADHD sits on the couch and tells her mother, "I don't have any friends."
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Ask Questions

A good way to deepen a friendship is by asking how your friend is doing and what is new in her life. Write down general questions you can ask anyone, such as “What did you do today?” “How is your family?” “Did you have a good day at work?” Having a list of questions ready helps you focus on the other person and gives you an opportunity for back-and-forth conversation.

A woman with ADHD laughs with a new aquaintance. She can no longer say, "I don't have any friends."
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Move Beyond Social Blunders

As an adult with ADHD, chances are you have blurted out something that hurt someone else’s feelings at some point. Be on the lookout for body language (such as moving away from you, crossing arms, tight lips, angry eyes) and apologize immediately if you have said something that upsets the other person. Ask friends and relatives you trust to help you sort out what you said wrong. Ask an ADHD coach to help you with social skills.

Two women with ADHD make hearts with their hands over their heads, a reminder to stay strong when you feel like you don't have any friends.
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Friends Don't Have to Be Perfect

The moment a friend or potential friend disappoints you, don’t run in the other direction, as many individuals with ADHD do. Don’t brood over an imagined slight. Cut the other person the slack you’d like to be cut.

A post-it that says, "Thanks." — a show of gratitude from a person who doesn't have any friends.
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Don't Let Good Deeds Go Unnoticed

Let the people in your life know you appreciate the kind things they do for you. When someone does something special, send a note of thanks—a handwritten note or an e-card. Acknowledging good deeds, gifts, favors, and everyday kindnesses make other people want to be around you.

Four adults with ADHD stand outside with their arms on each others shoulders. They can no longer say, "I don't have any friends."
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Count Your Strengths

While you may not have the best social skills, there are plenty of reasons someone would enjoy being with you. Write down three strengths, such as being a good person, being generous, or having a great sense of humor. Before heading out to a social function, remind yourself of your strengths and remember you are worth being around.

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