In Conversations & ADHD Part 1: Do They Feel Like Battlefields?, I wrote about conversations that, while they may feel like they are full of conflict, may in fact just be exchanges of different ideas.
But how about when there is genuine conflict between you and others?
How do you maximize the chances of constructively engaging with them while:
- keeping the conversation from becoming hurtful for any of the parties involved?
- not retreating because you are uncomfortable and don’t know how to respond?
- being assertive, but not erupting in anger?
It is not easy for most people to stay engaged in a conversation while also trying to meet the above objectives when there is conflict. And for adults with ADHD, in part because of the reasons I outlined in Part 1, it can be especially hard.
Do you want to “build your muscle” so you can better handle interactions where there is conflict?
Everyone gets angry. That is not a bad thing, really. It is a cue…
Anyone can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person at the right time, and for the right purpose and in the right way – that is not within everyone’s power and that is not easy. -Aristotle
If you want to use your anger constructively, the first step is knowing the cues that indicate you are getting angry:
- the physical cues, such as a tight stomach, pounding heart, etc.
- the thoughts, cognitive cues, of revenge, putdowns and more.
- your actions or behavioral cues, including shutting down, retreating, being sarcastic, not making eye contact or clenching your fist.
- the feelings that arise alongside or underneath your anger, emotional cues, like feeling disrespected, humiliated, rejected or just tired.
When these cues arise, pause. Then use the strategies in your toolbox to respond intentionally, rather than impulsively.
If you don’t have a toolbox of strategies now, consider where you might get support to create one.
Heading Anger Off At The Pass
You can also minimize the chances of your anger arising in the first place by being proactive in the following two ways.
One way to do this is to practice good self-care, which, as you know, is at the foundation of managing your ADHD effectively. This means using various strategies to manage your stress and overall wellbeing, including getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, getting downtime, etc.
Because when it comes to having good conversations, it is harder to do when you are tired, hungry, overwhelmed, etc., right?
The other way to head anger off at the pass is to know your triggers so you can anticipate and prepare how you want to respond in situations that typically trigger you.
Know Your Objectives
Knowing and holding your objective(s) in mind will also help you prepare for these conversations.
For example, if your objective is to have the other person buy into your proposal, you may try to sell your point, hard. But, if your objective is to have the other person hear and seriously consider your point of view, you may want to clearly state your point without the hard sell.
The example that resonates for me is dealing with my daughter, who is turning 16.
When I am at my best and centered, which of course doesn’t always happen, my objectives are to:
- speak to her in a way that is respectful and seeks to maintain her self-esteem.
- have confirmation that she really hears and understands my point of view.
- really listen to and understand her point of view.
- allow her to respectfully disagree with me.
- and, if necessary, make a decision that I hope is in her best interest even if she disagrees with me.
This is a tall order, to be sure. But knowing my objectives guides me in using the right tone and words when we are having a conflict.
I’m sure you can think of people in your life with whom you want to manage conflict better… Who are they?
When you are in conversations with any of these people today think about your objectives before starting the conversation. Then consider what kind of behavior, tone and words will serve your objectives.
Try To Change Or Let Go?
Acknowledging that you can’t control how the other person is going to respond is also really helpful, as this allows you to let go of the expectation that you can control the outcome of the situation.
More so, it allows you to decide how to use your anger and focus on what you can and choose to control your:
And, yes, I know maintaining this perspective is often easier said than done! Here are some helpful words from Dr. Ned Hallowell, author of “Driven to Distraction,” among other books.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
The insight to prioritize wisely what I want to change;
The patience to resist trying to control everything I could, had I the energy and time;
The courage and skill to change the things I have chosen to change;
And the wisdom to know the difference among all of these.
What do you choose to accept and what have you decided you want to change?
Building Skills, Confidence and Courage
So, you’ve gotten to the point where you know:
- the cues that indicate your anger is on the upswing.
- the self -care practices you want to work on making better.
- your triggers.
- how to establish objectives for your conversations.
- what you want to change.
You may be wondering, “What if I need to have a conversation where I’m pretty sure there will conflict? How do I have those difficult conversations?! I don’t think I have the confidence or skill, yet.”
Stay tuned for the next post where I’ll explore how to try to constructively channel your anger into effective conversations.