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The influence of ADHD on social skills

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Social skills can be challenging for people with ADHD. Whether it’s trouble with executive function or anxiety from past situations, socializing can come with a lot of emotions. It can also be really confusing, and bring up questions like why does it seem so much easier for everyone else? Why can’t I hold onto friendships? What do I even like to do? 

In this episode, host Cate Osborn chats with Caroline Maguire, MEd. Caroline is an ADHD coach and author of the book Why Will No One Play With Me? Join Cate and Caroline as they talk about how ADHD affects social skills and what we can do to help.

Episode transcript

Cate: Hi everybody, and welcome to "Sorry, I Missed This." It's me, your host, Cate Osborn, but you might know me as Catieosaurus. Today on the podcast, we are talking about social skills, about building friendships and intimacy with the incredible author and speaker Caroline Maguire, author of the book "Why Will No One Play With Me?" 

It took me a really long time to know myself. In this episode, you're going to hear me talk about how it turns out. I don't really like Star Wars. But Star Wars became a sort of a microcosm of this larger issue in my life, where I wanted to become the person that I thought other people wanted me to be. If I had a friend who was really into football, guess what? I was really into football. If I had a friend who was into professional wrestling, guess what? I got super into professional wrestling. 

It took me a really long time to know myself, but at some point, I had to stop and I had to say, "Who am I? Who am I, who am I, Cate? What do I want? What do I need, what do I stand for? And how do, the people that I bring into my life, how do they contribute to it? How do I contribute to theirs?" 

And one of the hardest things was that I realized that in a lot of cases, I was friends with people who didn't really know the real me. I was friends with people who had met this constructed and artificial version of myself. 

And as I got to know more about my ADHD, as I learned that I had ADHD and got my diagnosis, I started peeling back those layers and realizing that there were a lot of times where my lack of social skills and my lack of communication, and my lack of stick-to-it-ness when it comes to things like texting back, all of those things had resulted in my becoming somebody that my friends didn't even really know. 

I was chameleoning, and I was becoming somebody else for the sake of hoping and praying that they would overlook the struggles that I have socially in order to keep me around. And the more I did that, the lonelier and lonelier I got, the more and more friends I made. And if I'm being really honest, dear listener, I don't want that for you. I've been there. I know how much it sucks. 

And so, my hope for today's episode is that this amazing conversation that I had with Caroline will be a starting point for you to really look at how ADHD impacts your social skills and help you realize that it's not your fault when you're struggling. 

It's part of ADHD. It's part of your neurodivergency. It's part of how you are built and how you are wired, and finding ways through that, navigating around it and finding those supports and the ways for you to be authentically yourself and show up authentically as yourself in your own life, and for your friends and your family and your partners in your relationships, that's what I want with you. 

So, that was a lot of talking, but I hope you enjoy this episode. I had a great time talking with Caroline. She's an incredible speaker and educator and advocate. And so let's get into the episode now. 

So, I would love, before we start, can you tell the listeners just a little bit more about you, a little bit more about what you do, why you do what you do?

Caroline: Absolutely. So, I'm Caroline Maguire. I am, a master's in education, just in case anyone's like, "Why is she qualified to talk about this stuff?" My focus has always been social-emotional learning. I'm an ADHD coach. I have ADHD and a buffet of learning disabilities, and I was a really left-out kid. I was bullied, I was definitely sort of last picked. 

And when I started as an ADHD coach, the thing I noticed right away was that we are lonely. We are challenged with friendships and also we kind of doubt ourselves when actually we're pretty fabulous. And I just right away started helping people learn how to make friends, learn how to have more of a neuro-affirming perspective, and create strategies that actually work for our neurology. 

Cate: OK. Well, I want to hear more about those strategies because that sounds incredibly useful. But so before that, the sort of broad topic today is ADHD and its impact on social skills. So, I suppose the first question is how does ADHD impact social skills, Caroline? 

Caroline: I think there's a bunch of ways. So, at their base, it's that we don't have the strongest executive functions of the management system of the brain, and that affects all the way we socialize. So, organization, time management, our perception of things, missing stuff, like the title of the podcast is perfect because we miss stuff. Our emotional regulation, our impulsivity. 

Sometimes the fact that we're not really, like, tuned in to what's going on around us. And I think that affects our social skills. And when we're little kids, sometimes we don't get asked to play as often. And what happens is this affects us over the lifetime in two ways. One, confidence, right? When you're not picked, you feel less confident. You're less likely to reach out. You're more likely to sit on the sidelines or stay alone or think you're not all that in a bag of chips, when in fact you are. 

Cate: You are. You are. 

Caroline: And then the second is that you miss big social milestones. So, part of the way you learn in the social world is "I have experiences and then I learn from them. But if I'm not playing with people, if I don't hang out with people in high school, if I'm not included, I don't have those social milestones. And so my skills are kind of lagging and I don't develop those key skills well." 

Cate: And so, I guess like the next question then is, and so then what happens when those social skills don't develop and now you're an adult? Like what can that look like? What can that feel like? How is that affecting our lives with ADHD? 

Caroline: I think what it looks like is most adults I know with ADHD is that we don't really know what to do to approach other people, make friends, and connect with them. You know, the two questions I get the most are "How do I make friends? And then, like, if I should actually make a friend, what do I do when I get there? Like if somebody says, sure, I'd love to hang out with you, like, what do I do?" 

And then the biggest thing is we're super scared and we're not as confident because we just haven't had those positive experiences. And there are definitely ways in which that confidence just really affects us. 

Cate: So we see that social skills are impacted by ADHD, and so we like wind up in this place where it might be awkward for us to interact or it's uncomfortable or it's unfamiliar. So, I guess like my question and maybe this is a silly one, but it's something that I really do want to understand is what happens when you are uncomfortable with those interactions? Like it winds up with like a sense of like loneliness, right? 

Caroline: Yeah. Because think about it. When I'm uncomfortable, right? And I'm awkward, I'm filled with this terrible inner narrator, and everything I do, I self-doubt. 

Cate: Yeah. 

Caroline: I also tend to people please and take anybody who will be friends with me. So now they're not the people I'm most compatible with and most interested in. There are just like anybody who will be friends with me. They don't treat me necessarily very well because I accept less, because I think somehow I deserve it. Which, by the way, no you don't. And that discomfort makes me never really relaxed, which makes me like, I don't want to do this. It's so draining. I don't want to go because it's so much, it's so draining. 

And there's this constant feeling for adults with ADHD, and this I hear so often, that they don't really know what they're doing, and they don't feel confident and they don't really feel like, "Oh yeah, I got this. This is what I'm going to do." And there's always that feeling in ADHD that I don't know if anyone can relate to, but I definitely can, of you kind of let yourself down sometimes because you have an intention, right? And you're like, "I'm going to go and I am not going to say things I don't mean to say." 

Cate: Yeah. 

Caroline: But that's probably not 100% possible. And then you let yourself down. 

Cate: Yeah. 

Caroline: And then you, it begets this feeling of awkwardness. Like you feel like, "Oh, I'm so awkward. Look what I just said, right? So the awkwardness and that in-your-head thing really affects people. And it all goes back to childhood. 

Cate: Yeah. No, it makes so much sense. And it also sounds a lot like the experience of rejection sensitivity like that, you kind of just described it. 

Caroline:  Yeah. I mean, when rejection sensitivity and the term came on the scene, I wasn't like, "Oh what's this?" I was like, "Oh yeah. Like doesn't everybody have that?" 

Cate: So, something that I think kind of keeps coming up in this conversation is this idea of, so if we want to be comfortable, if we want to succeed, if we want to have these like positive experiences with social skills, then we have to do enough work on ourselves to know ourselves, right? 

Caroline: Yes. And believe me, everyone who's out there driving your car or listening, you're thinking, you know, "Self-awareness is really hard for us. Or, you know, I don't have a great mind-body connection, so I don't always know what I'm feeling like." I totally know that I hear you. But the fact is that if you know yourself and to me, interest is our fuel, and so, the biggest thing you have to know about yourself is what are you interested in? What do you know about yourself? 

If you know the activities and places where you would be interested, then if you go there, you're more likely to meet people with similar interests. And if you know, "Hey, I don't rush in. I'm kind of agnostic. I sit on the sidelines, I'm always like, 'meh',"  then, you know, that's how you approach relationships and where you need to sort of like, boost it up. 

It's really not a commentary on us. It's really just if you know yourself, you have a better chance of connecting. If you can connect, you can show your authentic self. 

Cate: Yeah.

Caroline: Right? Like you're into D and D, if I'm like your coach, I would say "We got to go places where Catie's happy." 

Cate: Yeah. Well OK. So, I'm really interested in this idea of chasing that and being able to determine that because I know something that is strangely common, at least in the folks that I've spoken to in the ADHD community, is like the changeability of ADHD, where kind of like you were talking about before, like this idea of like, I want to be picked, right? 

But so, you know that you get picked, you know, you get that positive attention when you're the class clown or really good at dodgeball or whatever. But so, then you notice that, "Well, everybody gets positive attention when they talk about Star Wars. I don't like Star Wars, but if I say I like Star Wars, then I'll get that positive attention." And then you become this person who's like, "I like Star Wars," and then like 20 years later, you're like, "I don't actually like Star Wars at all, I've just been saying that the whole time." What do you say to those people? 

Caroline: So, I put that in the people-pleasing category, and I see this a ton. 

Cate: I did not come into my own podcast to be attacked, how dare you? 

Caroline: But like, I don't think it's our fault. I think that if you're smart and you know Star Wars gets attention or sports or whatever, and you want to be picked because I definitely I mean, I, I've made videos about this recently where I like, I'm like thinking in my head, "They picked me and..." 

Cate: Yeah. 

Caroline: Then I'm like, "Oh my God, you're 48 years old and you're still are like excited that they picked you," right? 

Cate: We can cut this, but I do need you to know that literally last week, I auditioned for a community theater production of Cinderella, and they offered me the Fairy Godmother, and I was like, "No big deal. I just got cast in the show." 

Caroline: I don't think you should cut that. I think that's amazing. So, it's easy to fall into the trap. Now, is it sometimes polite to make conversation about basketball or Star Wars because someone's really into it and you want them to listen to you? Absolutely. 

But what we tend to fall into — and I have the perfect story for this — I had someone who joined a kayaking thing, like a club, where people kayak every weekend in order to meet friends, but they didn't like kayaking. Then you're with people who want to kayak, right? It's very easy to fall into this trap because we're so excited that someone wants to talk to us. 

But interest is our fuel. Interest gives us dopamine. Interest makes going interesting. So, if we can pick high-interest activities and I, by the way, have a ton about this on my website, then we can actually meet people we like. 

And I don't have to pretend, I mean, I do love Star Wars, but I don't have to pretend to love Star Wars, right? I'm not basing a relationship. I mean, imagine you turn to someone after ten years, you're like," I actually hate all the movies and I don't want to go ever again," right? They'd be like "What"? 

Cate: Surprise! It was just the long con. Well, OK, so, Caroline, you don't have to answer this if you don't want to, but I just want to know, do you have in your head the weirdest, farthest you've gone in pretending to like something like chasing that? Do you have one? 

Caroline: I mean, I definitely think that college Caroline was like, "I'm an only child and I'm an old soul and I'm a grump." At my core, who I am is a person who wants to, like, play board games and do stuff like that. And I was a theater kid, so like, I would go see your play, right? 

Cate: Yeah. 

Caroline: But I don't really want to go on spring break. So, like, college Caroline did all that stuff. I'll never forget one year I got mono. Can I tell you it was the best spring break I ever had? I just stayed home with my parents.

Cate: I don't know, like, it's so funny. Like, in the midst of this process of recording the podcast, we've done like a few episodes that I'm not sure the order that they're going to be coming out in. But already the thing that I'm noticing the most is that there's this like through line of you really have to know yourself and you really have to know the person that you want to be in order to, like, really become the person who has the friends that like, don't suck the energy out of you. There's a lot of like vulnerability in that. 

Also, I just realized it would be unfair for me to not tell my story, but I signed up for a poetry class because there was this boy that I liked. I didn't like poetry, but I liked the boy, and I was like, "Well, I can sit next to him in class." And then somehow out of that, I became like an internationally known slam poet for like a year. And then I was like, "I gotta stop, and that's my story." 

Caroline: Oh my God, that is so awesome. 

Cate: It turned out I was good at it. 

Caroline: And I think it goes both ways. So, like college Caroline wasn't like, "My goal is to see, you know, every version of Hamlet,  and my goal is to be this way," right? Like, have this intellectual life that I wasn't, like, putting out there as who I am. Whereas current-day Caroline would be like, "Yeah, not interested." Like I just sold tickets to a concert, not because there was anything wrong with the artist, but I was like, "Do I want to go? It's loud. No, I don't."

Cate: I'm very much, I feel like we're just two grumps sitting on like our front porch right now because, like, I would rather do anything than go to a concert. Like, it's so loud and there's so many people, and you have to, like park and it's. I was just like, I just want to watch it on TV so I can see everything. 

It's so interesting that, like, the more I realized that I was just making myself uncomfortable because that was the thing that I thought I was supposed to do in order to have friends, and how much it was just absolutely antithetical to, like, what my actual needs are.

Like my actual needs is to like, have a, you know, really intimate conversation, like in a quiet room where, like, there's not a lot of distractions, you know, it's not going out with the girlies to Taylor Swift, although I would go see a Taylor Swift concert. I'm not saying that I wouldn't. 

Caroline: I think you have to also know that environment that works for you. And yeah, of course, we all adapt sometimes and we all do things. And I've had friends say to me, "I really need you to like, do me a solid and come to this thing." And I'm like, "Sure." But they don't think I'm showing up as a person who's like, "I love this," versus the story you just walked about, which is I'm pretending for decades that I like something. 

Cate: Something that I want to talk about now is the idea of emotional reasoning. And how do we get to a place where we can know ourselves and work together with our partners or our friends or whatever to, like, really nail those social situations? 

Caroline: So, I think the thing about our mindset is that your mindset kind of governs how you behave, right? 

Cate: Yeah. 

Caroline: And if you have a lot of emotional reasoning, which a lot of us do, I think it's OK first to know that, and second, to know that, like when you're in that state, don't send the text, don't write on social media. Pause, wait 24 hours. 

If those feelings become facts and then the person we show up as isn't necessarily the person we want to be, because I have so many situations with clients where like they send 45 texts to explain their behavior when really the person they were with probably thought nothing of what happened. Or they decide that someone's angry at them. 

Cate: I think that's so interesting too, that you can just directly tie it to executive dysfunction. There's that emotional regulation component of it. There's that time perception of, "Oh, I don't know how long I was talking for. Like I must have annoyed them. So, now I'm going to reactionarily. That's how you say that word? Send 45 messages apologizing for my behavior for being so annoying. And it's like, "No, you talked for 20 seconds."

There's so many places where I see that idea of social skills and executive functions just sort of like intersecting in like this really, honestly, like complex way. 

Caroline: I mean, it is complex, right? And that's why we work with that. 

Cate: Yes. Duh. 

Caroline: No, no, no, but I mean, but I think it's important to know it's complex because the message we get from society and from the media is "Just push through. Just don't send those 45 texts." And it's not that simple. 

Cate: Yeah. 

Caroline: So, I think it's good to know there's this intersection of all of these skills and there is definitely a path forward. But to give yourself a little bit of a break and to shoo all that thought from blog posts that say, like, "Just don't do that," or "Just push through," because it's just not that easy. 

Cate: I have such a rant about the danger of the word "just" to people with ADHD like, "Oh, you just have to do this. You just have to keep a planner, or you just have to mind your temper," like it's so much more complex than that, I don't know. I get real mad about that one. 

Caroline: I mean, I think that I probably don't get as mad as I should because I agree. I mean, I'm like listening to people and I hear the things they say and the lens I look at it as if I were Caroline Maguire and I didn't know all I know what would be my reaction?

And so one of the things I am super aware of and in touch with is so often people say stuff to us that is outrageous and none of their business and it's everywhere. It's like literally at the pharmacy yesterday, someone I was like meeting with the pharmacist trying to find different medications, and someone was like, "Got a lot of medications there." And I'm like, "Hi, there's like a privacy line here." 

Cate: Yeah. Also, why are you worried about it? Thank you. Goodbye. 

Caroline: But people make comments and they feel free. So, the "just" thing is all legit because I think people feel so much shame and they shouldn't. It's all linked to executive function. And by the way, we can do magical, amazing things. And that's the other side of this coin. So, this might be something we have to strengthen, but there's other things we can do that no one else can do. 

Cate: The thing that I'm interested in, so you get to this point where you're like experiencing all of this stuff. So like, how do you stop yourself from getting just, like, cynical and burned by, like, constantly having to deal with the guy at the pharmacy going like, "Ha ha, you have too much stuff in your cart" or like whatever, you know? 

Caroline: I think the way that I have always done it is to say "They know not what they do." Now, I don't argue with people. So, I'm not a person who turns at the pet food store and says, "Actually, it's neurobiological disorder and you actually should check your fact." Like, I don't do that very much because I just feel like, ugh, I'm too tired. But…

Cate: Yeah, it's exhausting. 

Caroline: It's like, ugh, I don't really need to turn this on right now. I just want to get my kibble and go home. But I think the way we move forward is to have that self-talk in our head. And what I'm always trying to do is give people a path forward so that when they think, "You know not what you say," they're like, "And I have a path forward because there's this lady, Caroline Maguire, spends all her time thinking about friendship, and she said the key is interest, and I'm going to move on that path and I'm going to ignore all of your societal messages." 

Cate: I love that. The opposite side of the coin, then, is that trusting people enough to, like, reveal that side of yourself and saying, "No, this is actually who I am. I'm actually a person who doesn't like Star Wars. I prefer Indiana Jones." There, I said it on the record. I prefer Indiana Jones to Star Wars any day of the week. But there's an intimacy and a trust that has to be built in friendships, relationships, whatever in order to like really, I think support that. Am I off-base on that? 

Caroline: You're on base. So, the way it works, right, is that intimacy and connection are built. So, you do have to trust yourself, and you have to trust that there are millions of people in the world who believe Indiana Jones is better. I mean, they're crazy, but they believe it. And, no, I love Indiana Jones, too. 

Cate: On my own podcast! 

Caroline: And that if you get to know someone instead of rushing in, that you build that connection, you build that intimacy. You get to know them over time. You're using your strong interests and that there's going to be a path to make friends. And that you can be authentic in a way that isn't abrupt or rude, but you're just revealing what you're interested in. And the trust comes from confidence, and the confidence comes from having a plan, having experiences, and coming to know that there are people out there for you. 

Cate: And it's also, I think, a really good way to avoid that kind of idea of like dopamine chasing where you start, you know, like, "Oh, I met this really cool person," and then you're friends with them for two weeks and then you disappear out of their life. 

Like, how do we, as ADHDers set the people in our life up for success when it comes to things like being there for them, and staying present in our relationships and, you know, really not using them and then leaving them once the sort of dopamine is depleted? Which sounds terrible to say, but do you know what I'm talking about?

Caroline: Yes. So, I mean, I think there is a factor where you have to know thyself and know you may be chasing dopamine. And I think if you get your dopamine from other sources, then you're less likely to be chasing that. 

Or you start chasing it and you say to yourself, "Hey, I'm rushing in." And I think part of it is when I say to ADD people like, "Hey, you have to build friendship over time. You have to nurture it. You want to feel them out. You don't want to jump in. You want to get to know them. Do they deserve your trust and intimacy?" They're like, "Ugh, that's so much. It's boring." 

And so, the dopamine chase, I think is a legit thing. But I think there's ways to have that dopamine hit in your life, right? And to be aware that that new friendship is bright and sparkly and you're chasing it for that reason. And I don't think we do it as purposefully as it may seem. I think we just fall into this trap. 

Cate: Yeah. 

Caroline: Because it gives us such a rush of dopamine. And the alternative we've been sold, I don't think building the friendship is actually as boring as people are thinking it would be, but the way that it's been described is probably so boring that they're like, "Ugh, no, I'm just going to rush in." But then you rushed in and you could be friends with someone and then realize, "Oh my God, they're totally toxic. I gotta get away from this person." 

Cate: So, something that I like to do on each episode is I like to ask our wonderful, amazing guests if they're like three things that our listeners should take away from and remember and keep in mind as they're moving through the world, what are they? What should they remember? 

Cate: OK, so one: interests. Your interests matter. Your interests are how you meet like-minded people. You share experiences with them, and then you become friends. Your interest is absolutely the guiding light. That's the path forward. 

Two is if you know yourself, you're going to know what you need. And what you need is actually important. And it's been depicted in the past as not important. But that's not true. You need certain things. And I think it's important to know that like environments, different ways of being, those things are important. 

And then I think the third thing is don't pretend to have this alternative life, OK? You know, it doesn't mean you can't do stuff for other people sometimes in order to fulfill their needs. But you can't build a real friendship, which is what we're really looking for, right? We want that closeness. You can't build it based on you pretending that you like to do something that you have no interest in, and you're not going to meet your people there because your people are wherever your interest is; that's where they're gathered. 

Cate: No, I love that. It's so valid. So, as we come to the sort of end of this episode, I'm wondering, do you have any like just immediate how-to pro tips, like, "Here's what you're going to do. Here's the things that you should keep in mind just to like work on and develop those skills." 

Caroline: Yeah. So, one of my easy hacks is have a job or a role. So, when you think of high-interest activities, they have to have an interactive component for you to meet people and share experiences with them. Here's an example you and I would probably both do. If you go to a dog park, you have something to do with your body. You have a role, you're managing this dog and you're interacting with people because the dogs interact. 

If you're volunteering, right? Volunteering — I think it's one of the best ways to meet people — and you're running the beach clean up, I have to go up to you and talk to you because I'm running the beach clean up. So, I have a role and I have an interactive element. So, when I filter, definitely look for that role because now I'm less awkward, like I have something to do with myself. 

Cate: I also like that it solves another ADHD problem, which is like, "I'm bored of that last hobby that I had. I want to do something new," so that it also becomes like a great way to meet new and interesting people in your life as you sort of like move from like little interest to little interest. I kind of like that. That's fun. 

Caroline: Yeah, I like that too. And I think it goes on one of my other things, which is people are always searching for this one all-encompassing best friend, but most of the time we don't find one person who meets all our needs. We find many people who fulfill our needs. 

One of the things we fear is staying at that acquaintance stage, which happens to us. But we could have different people who fulfill different needs in our lives. And if we don't have a best friend, it's not catastrophic. So, you're therefore exploring your interests, and you're meeting friends within your interests and within different areas of your life.

Cate: That's so interesting, I love it, I love it so much. 

All right, everybody, now it's time for Cate's comment corner. Maybe. Name pending. So, what we like to do is we like to ask our listeners for their questions, their comments, their stories. And today's is once again, not a specific listener question, but a general topic that so many people had for us when we put out the call for questions. Caroline Maguire, 87 people would like to know, how do I remember that my friends exist when they're out of sight, out of mind? 

Caroline: OK. This is a good one. I love this one. 

Cate: So many people e-mailed it. 

Caroline: The struggle is real because we're always behind on stuff. We're always catching up. I totally resemble this remark. So, there's a couple of things. You have to externalize things with ADHD, right? Like, I have all my little reminders, and my little stickies, and my little things because I don't remember. So, you have to externalize those reminders and have actual reminders that you need to make contact with your friend, just like you have a reminder that, like, "Time to pay the Chase bill." 

And I also like to use anchors. So, for me, whenever I'm putting my son on and off the bus, and I'm waiting 8 million years for the bus to show up, I am answering people's texts, writing to people, actually reaching out to people because that's my anchor. Like "bus" is my anchor.

So, if you have a time of day or an anchor, then it becomes a habit, then it becomes less like dependent on me remembering. And the other thing I like to do is I think things should be like on autopilot. So, I like activities that are just built in. I have this meeting once a week, or I go to this activity once a week. Friday night trivia. I don't have to think about it, schedule it, use my executive function, or have the future thinking it's already late in the week as we're recording this. This is probably when most of us wake up and go, oh, I should make plans for the weekend, right? 

Cate: Yeah. Yeah.

Caroline: It's set if it's on autopilot, if it's a structured thing that like, you just show up. Yeah, you have to make sure you show up, and I know that struggle is real too, but it's less of a struggle than if it's like, "I have to plan something."

Cate: I feel like you just gave me personally such good advice that I never thought of or realized before. Like, yeah, that's why all of the activities that I have enjoyed have been like the SCA and like D and D, because it's like there's just like that organization component. I just show up and do a thing, like you just changed my life, I feel like. 

Also honestly, my answer is just I literally have like a well, you said it, but I keep like my friends on my calendar and I go, "Oh, I probably should reach out to Kelly today." And I used to feel so bad about it. And then I realize like, "No, that's just what I need to like, that's what I do now." 

Caroline: I totally do the same thing. I mean, if someone's having surgery, I put it on my calendar.  And I always wonder what my admin thinks. She's probably like, "What are you doing?" But I don't want to be insensitive. And there's a very real chance that if it was left to my memory, a week later, I'd realize "They had surgery last Thursday."

Cate: Yeah. 

Caroline: And then I have the guilt and the shame cycle.o I put it on my calendar. Sometimes I even put a giant sticky. I'm a believer in the big stickies. Like, they're like huge. 

Cate: I love the big sticky. 

Caroline: But I think like, we have to externalize it because I don't want us in that shame cycle. And the other thing is, you know, automated messages like the social media stuff that reminds you like "It's Catie's birthday."

Cate: Yeah. Again, is that idea of like, who do I want to be, right? I want to be a good friend. I want to be a person who remembers my friend's birthdays. I want to be a person who reaches out after surgery. And my way of doing that is having those calendar reminders or those big stickies. And so, I think there's like this element of just knowing yourself and authentically representing your needs. Like that's going to help you so much in like building the social skills and living a more fulfilled life. 

Caroline: I mean, I think that the biggest thing I see in ADHD people often is that we pretend we're going to be a different person, and part of it is we have this shame and we think we need to be a different person. But if you're a person who is out of sight, out of mind and forgets, be that person, own it and say, "OK, what do I have to do so that I actually interact with human beings? And how do I set this up for success?" 

This is true of anything with ADHD. Like we have to set ourselves up for success and knowing that, like the likelihood that I'm going to remember what day of the week it is that you had, surgery is very slim. And then the other thing I want to say, too, is people have this perception that because we forget birthdays or because we don't send birthday cards or all this stuff people tell me, it's one of the biggest things I get, that we like, don't deserve friends or something, and that's just not true. 

No research shows that people actually aren't friends with us because of those kind of things. I think us disappearing for six months, you know, but us being forgetful and going the next day and saying, "Oh my gosh, I realized it was your birthday," I don't think that carries such a weight as we give it. And I think part of it is that as children, as younger people, people were like, "You have to do this."

And part of it is our parents were worried, you know, so they would harp on certain things. But the out of sight, out of mind is such a thing for us. And so, we have to get it off manual mode and onto autopilot. It just it can't be something I have to actively invest in if that's not who I am. 

Cate: Oh my God, Caroline Maguire, I could talk to you for 10,000 years about this and still want to learn more, but we got to go. So before we go, do you have anything that you want to talk about that we didn't or like, you know, do you just want to say?

Caroline: I want to say that we are actually really good friends and we don't give ourselves credit and that we're fabulous and fun and creative, and we have so many wonderful traits. And I really want people to remember that and think about the ways in which you are appealing. And you are someone someone wants to be friends with. 

Because the biggest thing I hear from people is "Nobody wants to be friends with me." And then I spend an hour with that person and I can't stop talking to them. So, I just don't think it's true. I think it's a perception, and I want us to just, when you hear that in your head, say something much more positive to yourself because it is just not true. We're fabulous. 

Cate: Caroline Maguire, thank you so much for being here. You are so wonderful. You're so incredible. You're so amazing. You are an educator. You're an advocate. You're a speaker. You're an author. You wrote a book, tell people where to find you. 

Caroline: You can find me at or authorcarolinem on social media. And you can also just Google, "Why will no one play with me?" and everything just magically pops up. And I'm going to continue to write books. My next book will be for adults, and I'm here, so come find me. I will absolutely make videos about whatever your dilemma is, because I've probably heard it a thousand times. 

Cate: Thank you for listening. Anything mentioned in the episode will be linked in the show notes with more resources. Have a question, comment, burning story you'd like to share? Email me at 

This show is brought to you by Understood is a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering people with learning and thinking differences like ADHD and dyslexia. Learn more at 

"Sorry, I Missed This" is produced and edited by Jessamine Molli and Margie DeSantis. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also mixes the show. Ilana Millner is our supervising producer. Briana Berry is our production director. Neil Drumming is our editorial director. 

For, our executive directors are Laura Key, Scott Cocchiere, and Seth Melnick. And I'm your host, Cate Osborn. Thank you so much for listening. Remember to be kind to yourself, remember to be kind to others, and I'll see you again soon. 

I'm so sorry. My dog just barfed all over the carpet. Can we pause? 


  • Cate Osborn

    (@catieosaurus) is a certified sex educator, and mental health advocate. She is currently one of the foremost influencers on ADHD.

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