“I didn’t mean it!”
We know that ADHD affects executive functioning which includes the ability to communicate in a clear, concise and well thought out manner. It can lead to feelings of frustration and shame, with misunderstandings in all types of relationships a common occurrence. Seeing the world in black or white can be the case for people with ADHD. Right or wrong, good or bad. This creates social struggles as this worldview doesn’t allow for all the shades of grey; the differences of opinion, the spectrum of ideas.
What do communication problems look like with ADHD?
Losing the conversation thread…. losing track of the conversation….getting distracted by other thoughts….getting your grammar mixed up…interrupting people….zoning out….people getting frustrated because they think you are not a good listener…offending people by blurting something out without thinking….poor word choice….overreacting.
These are just some examples of the struggles you may experience in your communication style with ADHD. So what can you do to start building better communication skills, therefore better relationships?
The great news is, communication skills can be learned!
Be kind to yourself
The first and most important step is to practice a sense of self-awareness and commit to trying to create change. Just reading this article is a great first step.
Time and space
It is important to breathe. If you need to have a difficult conversation with your friend, colleague or partner, suggest going for a walk. When faced with a difficult question and you need more time to formulate an answer, ask for more time. Establish the time and place that you will pick up the conversation again. Typing difficult thoughts in an email or letter is also a great technique, allowing you the time and space to clarify your thoughts. Lastly, do not bring up issues ‘on the fly.’ Agree on a convenient time of the day for both of you, and you are much more likely to be present in the conversation.
Look for cues
Good communication skills require attention. Paying attention to key cues helps us understand what someone is thinking or feeling. This social dexterity allows you to hold back a comment, listen actively, and follow the conversation’s progression. As much as possible, try and hold conversations in a place with as few distractions as possible. This means no television, no phone, and no kids. You will automatically be a much better listener, and good listening tells your partner that you care.
Impulsivity can result in blurting out whatever thought jumps into your head. Try counting to 5 after your conversation partner finishes their sentence. This gives your partner time to finish their thought and they feel heard.
Practice makes perfect
Change is never easy. Practising the art of conversation will benefit you greatly. Ask a trusted friend or partner who understands your struggles to practise holding conversations with you. Ask for feedback. Think of it as a kind of training and the more training you put in, the better you will become at it.