Given our busy lives, it is no wonder that many of us have difficulty keeping up with friendships. But for individuals with ADHD, maintaining healthy friendships can be even a bigger struggle than for most.  How does one balance the many demands that life puts upon us while keeping our vital connections to those people we truly value?  The following article takes a look at 2 of the most common mistakes made by those with ADHD when it comes to maintaining these close friendships.

Many individuals with ADHD attract many friends due to their zany sense of humor, high energy, and creative fun loving nature.  However, for many people with ADHD, maintaining good friendships over a sustained period of time may be difficult, due to a variety of reasons including boredom, poor time management, problems with memory and behaviors that may be interpreted as being selfish or unresponsive to other’s  needs.  Out of all the difficulties one faces in maintaining good friendships, the 2 most common mistakes that I have noted among people with ADHD are the following;

  1. The inability to acknowledge and appreciate their friends on a consistent basis

People with ADHD often feel so besieged by all they have to do, that adding one more thing to that long list, may feel overwhelming. It is for this reason that they may not send that birthday card, thank you notes, or make that call to let their friends know that they are thinking of them.  This may lead to others feeling unacknowledged or devalued in the friendship and may even result in others questioning whether or not the friendship is worth hanging on to.  We are all so busy in our lives, and without nurturing friendships, they often grow apart.  

For this reason, one must make a conscious effort to “show up” for ones friends by making sure to take the time to acknowledge them.  One thing that may be helpful is to make sure that your friend’s birthdays or special dates are put on your calendar.  There are many electronic calendar reminders that let you know when it’s someone’s birthday. Even Facebook offers an APP that automatically enters your friend’s birthdays and even reminds you the week before the event.  Find a method that works for you and make sure to use it.  If a regular wall calendar works best for you, then pencil those important dates right into the calendar in red, so that you are sure to see them.  Make a point of picking up the phone, writing that thank you note, or sending a card to let them know that you are thinking of them. Don’t assume that your friends already know that you are busy and how you feel.   

 And lastly, sometimes you just need to physically show up and be there.  That means doing whatever it takes to be physically present for your friends.  I recently read a great quote by Blake Mycoskie, which I posted to my Pinterest page that said “No matter how convenient it is for us to reach out to people remotely, sometimes the most important task is to show up in person.” Sometimes there is no substitute for just being there.


  The second most common mistake that is made by people with ADHD is


   2.      The inability to really listen.        

How many times have you found yourself speaking to a friend and noticing your minds wandering off?  Or perhaps you were listening and waiting impatiently for them to finish their sentence so that you could change the subject and discuss something of interest to you?  These are 2 common listening problems that are common to people with ADHD.  Aside from not being able to respond to your friend’s needs at that moment, you give them the feeling that you are disinterested or don’t care.  In addition, because your mind may be wandering, you may not remember some very important points that were being made, which leaves others feeling that you are disinterested or self absorbed. 

So, how does one rectify this problem? Being able to learn how to be mindful and notice when your thoughts are drifting off are  probably the most valuable skill for you to develop in order to enhance your ability to be a good listener.  Staying present to our life experiences every moment is about developing present awareness. This can be developed through meditation, which teaches us to be mindful.   Try practicing mindful listening skills with a partner.  Notice when your mind drifts off and bring it back to the conversation.  Always maintain eye contact when listening to someone and ask for clarification if you are feeling lost in the conversation.  Try mirroring back and paraphrasing what you have heard.  If you are unsure that you understand the meaning of their words, ask for clarification.  A short example of how to do this would be;

  •  “So, if I understand you correctly, you were angry with your mother for asking you to go to the store. Is that correct? “                                  
  •  “Yes, because she always does this when I am running late”.
  •   “Oh, so your mother asks you to run errands when you feel pressured for time?”
  •  “Yes”

Learning to be mindful and develop empathic listening skills will enhance all of your relationships  by helping to resolve misunderstandings, frustration and conflicts.  In addition, it will make people feel valued and heard, which leads to the maintenance of healthy lifelong friendships.

Remember, having ADHD is an explanation, not an excuse.  So, don’t use your ADHD as an excuse for not stepping up to the plate,  since being able to maintain friendships is an important part of feeling valued, while providing us with a sense of contentedness in the world.   For these reasons alone, mastering these skills may just be one of the most important lessons for anyone to learn.   

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