Why Can’t We Be Friends?

ADHD or not, maintaining friendships can be tough when everyday life is overwhelming. Check out these strategies for making new friends and resolving issues with the ones you already have.

A group of adults with ADHD work toward being better friends.
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Keeping Friendships Alive

Devoting the time and attention they deserve to our most important relationships is hard work for anyone — especially an adult with ADHD. Making and keeping friends involves making (and remembering!) social commitments, and then staying in touch – not exactly ADHD strengths! On top of that, our brains need more time alone to rest and process stimulation. So how do we manage to keep friendships alive? These strategies can help!

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Friendship Worries

Maintaining relationships can feel like work, especially for adults who approach friendships with these mindsets:

  • I don’t feel like going out.
  • I hate forgetting plans.
  • I don’t have enough friends.
  • I’m bad at being in touch.
  • I’d rather spend time at home. Is that antisocial?

The fact is that anyone can make socializing more enjoyable! It doesn't have to be all or nothing. Learning how to make friends as an adult can be tough, but is extremely rewarding in the end.

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Why Friends Are Important

Friends act as a natural treatment — coaching you through tough symptoms and reassuring you with a smile when you’re feeling rejected or discouraged. The key is finding friends who understand, and are accepting of your ADHD, so they’ll get it if you jump topics or forget the name of their cat.

[Free Download:8 Ways to Get Better at Small Talk]

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How Many Friends Is Normal?

Quality of friendships is more important than the quantity. Having acceptance and understanding in relationships is what makes good friends. It can be nice to have a mix of friends with ADHD, who can empathize with your struggles, and non-ADHD friends, who can be the yin to your disorganized, distracted, creative yang.

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How to Make Friends

Don’t give up hope if parties feel like work; listening is not always easy. Know your tolerance for chatting, and stick to that limit. Have an excuse ready to exit the conversation, like going to the bathroom. Or, give up on remembering the details of a conversation, and go for the basic gist. Consider trying medication to help your focus in social settings. Think about your relationship challenges, and come prepared with strategies to defeat them.

[Read This Next: The Impact of ADHD on Relationships, According to Experts]

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How to Stay Friends

Once you've made a friendship connection, the key to keeping the friendship alive is paying attention and remembering important things like their kid's name and where they work. You’ll have to prioritize staying in touch, and schedule efforts to reconnect. Try keeping a friend journal that tracks the last time you spoke to important people, or setting email reminders to stay in touch. Another good idea: Ask your friends help you. For example, have them call when they’re leaving to meet you so don't get waylaid.

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How to Make Time

It might feel like there aren't enough hours in the day for socializing after dealing with daily life. But social events don’t have to be elaborate affairs. Sometimes a quick reconnect will do the trick. Set aside 10 minutes daily. Pick one friend each time, and make the effort to phone or email. Plan one meal with a friend each month, or share the recreational activities you like the most, like biking or jogging, instead of sit-down dinners.

[Dash of Patience, Smidgen of Honesty: A Recipe for Friendship]

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How to Figure Out What Went Wrong

If you notice your friends aren’t reciprocating, it’s time to figure out what may have gone wrong, before a few weeks of unreturned calls becomes a friendship rift. Think back to the last time you saw each other or talked. Did you broach a touchy subject? Forget their birthday? Say something unintentionally offensive? Reach out with an apology or your sincere confusion sooner rather than later.

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Strive for Self Awareness

Adults with ADHD don't always recognize when they’ve made a relationship faux pas. Watch for body language that signals something's wrong – pursed lips, crossed arms. Be sensitive for nonverbal cues like cutting a conversation short. Play back the conversation in your head and look for anything that could be provocative. Then, ask your friends if you’ve done anything offensive.

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How to Make Amends

Admit when you've messed up in the relationship, and then apologize. Make sure that you follow through on your commitments – keep the dates you’ve made with friends. Listen when your friends are talking, and try not to talk too much. Try to think about what’s important to your friends, and try to make it important in your friendship. Be aware and up front about what you need, and what you just can't deliver.

Getting Stuff Done Is Easier with a Friend
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How to Rekindle Friendships

Pick three people you used to enjoy spending time with. Ask yourself, why did we stop talking? Do I miss them? If so, it's not too late to get them back. Don’t obsess over sending a card for every birthday. A simple call to say, “I miss you” is sometimes enough. Send a brief message saying what you’ve been up to since you’ve been out of touch. Make a plan to get together and reminisce. Use the holidays as a time to give relationships something to build on in the New Year.

[Is Your ADHD Causing Social Slip-Ups?]