Adults with ADHD often have trouble sustaining friendships because ADHD challenges get in the way. If you’re not managing your time well, then it’s difficult to squeeze in a lunch date, or even a phone call. If you’re unorganized, you might forget a birthday card. And you might even zone out of an important conversation every now and then.

But there’s something else that may be making people perceive you as high-maintenance: you might be a “BMW.” Let me explain.

I hate to say it, but a lot of adults with ADHD have an attitude problem. It’s not uncommon for an ADHDer to a negative attitude and low self-esteem.

It’s understandable; a lifetime with ADHD can have you feeling bad for being so “different” from everyone else. And mainstream advice doesn’t account for the unique wiring of ADHD brains, so when popular self-improvement advice doesn’t work, you might feel like a failure. After a while, it really chips away at your self-esteem.

As a result, many people with AD/HD grow up to be BMWs—people who constantly Bitch, Moan, and Whine! This is one of the reasons that adults with ADHD often have trouble making new friends and keeping old ones. It’s also why so many of us struggle to get along with our family members, coworkers, and neighbors.

No one likes to hang out with a BMW. If you’re interactions with your friends often consist of you brooding, complaining, or finding fault, then your friends are most likely feeling like they have to expend extra energy to make you feel better all the time. They may feel like you bring them down, or zap their energy. You can even gain a reputation of being a high-maintenance friend who is a drag to be around! And the worst part about it is that you may not have even realized what you were doing!

If you think that you might be a BMW, then don’t fret. With a little work, you can adjust your attitude and improve your social skills. Here are three practical things you can do right away to overcome being a BMW, and get rid of a high-maintenance reputation:

1. Accept compliments with grace and gratitude—even if you don’t agree with them.

BMWs almost always suffer from low self-esteem. Accepting the compliments that are paid to you will go a long way in helping you feel better about yourself.

You’ll find that most people genuinely mean what they say. If your friend says she likes your haircut, believe it! Smile, and say “thank you.” If you argue with her compliment by disagreeing and saying something like “This is the worst haircut I’ve ever had!”, then you’re essentially telling your friend that her opinion is wrong. Your friend will feel like she has to convince you that her compliment is genuine, and she may even feel offended that you don’t believe her.

2. Avoid putting yourself down in front of others.

People often view self-deprecation as “fishing for compliments” and feel a responsibility to lift you up and make you feel better. If it happens to often, it becomes annoying.

There’s a big difference between expressing your challenges, and putting yourself down for them. It’s perfectly okay to say “I would have liked to have the house cleaned up by the time you got here, but unfortunately I didn’t have enough time.” In contrast, a BMW might say something like “I’m such a slob! My house is always a mess and no matter what I do I can never get it together!” Your friend will feel like she has to make you feel better about your house and your self, instead of being able to relax and enjoy your company.

3. Surround yourself with positive, happy people.

One of the easiest ways to adjust your attitude is to surround yourself with people worth emulating. When you choose to spend time with other BMWs, you’re choosing to be a BMW.

Make a concerted effort to ditch the BMW within, and then invite a pleasant coworker to join you for coffee, take a walk with a friendly neighbor, or reconnect with a supportive friend. You’ll absorb the positive energy of these good influences. And positive, happy people will be much more understanding when you do find yourself running late for lunch or forgetting a birthday!

When you adjust your attitude by increasing your self-esteem and adopting a more positive perspective, you’ll find that you have an easier time creating and maintaining social connections. You’ll go from being a high-maintenance  friend to a low-maintenance one. People will enjoy spending time with the real you, and you’ll feel better about yourself, too!


Jennifer Koretsky About Jennifer Koretsky

Jennifer Koretsky, SCAC is the Managing Partner of the ADD Management Group, LLC and Chief Executive Officer of ADHDmanagement.com. She is a Senior Certified ADHD Coach, and the author of Odd One Out: The Maverick's Guide to Adult ADD.

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