For adults with ADHD communicating can be a veritable landmine at times.
- saying what you do not mean
- talking too little
- talking too much
- not being able to follow a conversation
- feeling overwhelmed
- getting distracted
You are not alone. These are common communication challenges when you have ADHD.
Of course, some of the challenges may be due to differences in communication styles or the difficulties the other person has in communicating.
And some challenges may be due to your ADHD symptoms. That is the good news, really! After all, it is easier to focus on an area where you have the most control, yourself. This is the focus of this article.
Once you understand how your ADHD may be impacting your ability to communicate effectively you can create an action plan to help you communicate better.
For adults with ADHD the filing system for organizing information in your brain is inefficient; you may not file words or ideas in the same place consistently. So, when it comes to retrieving them, it is difficult to find them.
You may appear as though you don’t know what you want to say as your search for a word or idea. And, while you are searching for the right word or idea, you may impulsively say whatever comes to mind. It may not be what you mean at all!
But the other person /people may assume that is what you meant. After all, you did say it!
To make matter worse, stress can make finding the right word or idea even more challenging.
If you are feeling pressured in a professional or social situation, you may have even more trouble finding the “right” word or idea.
- clam up
- blurt out
- talk endlessly
But you do not communicate in the way that you want.
Too Many Thoughts
When your brain is filled with so many thoughts at once it also hard to stop and isolate the one you really want to convey. Instead, you may end up saying the first thing that comes to mind. And, again, it may not be what you really intend to say.
Only after you say it might you be able to decide that it is not what you really meant to say. A little too late, though…
Another common challenge in communicating is being distracted by what is going on around you (random noises, other conversations, etc) or inside your own head (ideas related or unrelated to the conversation).
While you are having a conversation, you may be thinking:
- “When is that car alarm going to shut off?”
- “That fly is really loud!”
- “What should I say next?”
- “What did he really mean?”
It makes it hard to be involved in a conversation while all of these thoughts are swirling through your head!
So, how do you manage all of these challenges?
As always, there is no simple answer. But depending on your situation, there are strategies to help you improve your ability to communicate more effectively. Of course, you will have to decide which strategy is appropriate for each situation.
Share Communication Challenges
One strategy is to share with people with whom you communicate regularly your challenges in communicating. And ask them to:
- give you the time you need to organize and communicate your thoughts
- cue you if you are not giving them a chance to talk (without shaming you)
- believe you when you say, "I didn't mean that."
- understand if you get temporarily distracted, and allow you time to get back on track
Ideally, you can talk openly with some people about your challenges.
But, in some cases, it may not feel safe to share your challenges.
Another alternative is not to engage in a conversation on the spot. This might be your best option if the conversation is particularly stressful, increasing the chances that you may not communicate what you want.
Instead, you may respond with something like:
“I want to talk with you about this, but I would like a little time to think about it. Could we schedule some time on ….”
Then take time to think and write about what you want to convey. The process of writing can help you organize your thoughts and be better prepared for the conversation.
Come with Notes
Sometimes it is enough to process what you want to say by just writing it out.
Other times, you may want to bring notes with you to the conversation. It may be a simple list with bullet points or more. Just having the notes may also give you confidence; you know you have a fall back, if you forget a point.
ADDed Perspectives Bottom Line
Think about what would help you to communicate, and give yourself permission to use the above suggestions without feeling like the odd person out.
Do you have other strategies that you use to help you effectively engage in conversations? Please share them!