2 Ways ADHD Makes It Hard To Be A Good Friend (And How To Fix It)

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Given our busy lives, it's no wonder that many of us have difficulty keeping up with friendships. But for individuals with ADHD, maintaining healthy friendships can prove 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?

Many individuals with ADHD attract tons of friends due to their zany sense of humor, high energy, and creative, fun, loving nature. However, maintaining good friendships over a sustained period of time is quite a different story — due to a plethora of reasons including boredom, poor time management, problems with memory, and behaviors that are sometimes interpreted as being selfish or unresponsive to other’s needs.

Out of all the difficulties one faces in maintaining good friendships, the two most common mistakes that I have noted among people with ADHD are:

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

People with ADHD often feel so besieged by all that they have to do, that adding one more thing to that long list may feel overwhelming. It's 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're thinking of them.

This may lead to others feeling unacknowledged or devalued in the friendship — even resulting in others questioning whether or not the friendship is worth hanging onto. We're 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 acknowledge them.

One thing that you may find helpful is to make sure that you mark your friend’s birthdays or special dates on your calendar. (With social media like Facebook, this isn't all that much to ask.) Not to mention, there are many electronic calendar reminders (ahmm, your phone) that can help you remember special occasions. Find a method that works for you and make sure to use it.

And lastly, sometimes you just need to physically show up — actually be there! What exactly does that mean? Being physically present for your friends. I recently pinned a great quote by Blake Mycoskie to Pinterest, 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." Simply put, sometimes there's no substitute for just being there.

2. The inability to really and truly listen 

How many times have you found yourself speaking to a friend and noticing your mind 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? Sounds familiar, right? 

Well, that's because these are two listening problems that are common among those with ADHD. Aside from not being able to respond to your friend's needs at that moment, you give make them feel like you're 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 — leaving others with the impression that you're, either, disinterested or self absorbed.

You must learn the art of being mindful and noticing when your thoughts are drifting off. Staying present to our life experiences, in every moment, is about developing present awareness. Meditation helps develop this awareness, which teaches us to practice being 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're feeling lost in the conversation. Try mirroring back and paraphrasing what you've heard. If you're 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 — it will help to resolve misunderstandings, frustration, and conflicts. In addition, it will make people feel valued and heard, which leads to maintaining healthy, lifelong friendships.

But 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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