The focus of this series, Conversations and ADHD, has been specifically on dealing with conflict, real or perceived.
In Part 1 I “challenged” you to consider that you may feel some of your conversations are “battlefields” when, in fact, there is just an exchange of ideas. Then in Part 2 I introduced you to a few strategies you can use to keep you anger from driving your reactions when there truly is potential conflict.
Now it is time to share a few tips on ways to build the skills and confidence you need to decide to have important and difficult conversations.
My hope is this will be the beginning of your journey, if you choose to become more skilled in this area. At the end of the post I’ll share a few good resources to help you engage in those conversations.
ADHD Related Challenges
In brief, your ADHD symptoms may contribute to your difficulties in expressing yourself because of:
- difficulties retrieving the “right” words and ideas.
- the overwhelm of trying to organize your thoughts.
- external distractions.
- internal distractions – other thoughts.
- challenges with regulating your emotions.
For more explanation on these ideas check out ADHD and Communicating: Finding the Right Words…
Of course, the reasons you may struggle to express yourself effectively in conversations are likely due to more than just your ADHD. And it would be helpful to identify and address those challenges, as well.
Knowing all of your related challenges can help you to create the right workarounds.
Agreeing On The Topic And Objective
And one workaround is knowing the topic and objective of your conversation in advance. This will:
- give you the opportunity to organize your thoughts.
- allow you time to think about how you want to respond.
- make it easier to focus while in the conversation.
- minimize your stress and overwhelm.
A shared understanding of what you are trying to accomplish can also help to minimize the chances of conflict, as well.
While this is not always possible, let’s look at a hypothetical example to see how this strategy could potentially be used.
Bob needs to work with Sally to come up with a proposal for a new training. Bob “knows” Sally is “always” opposed to his ideas. J
He decided it would be too hard to try to tackle agreeing on training ideas in the first meeting. So, Bob suggest that the agenda for the first meeting should be to share and brainstorm ideas with the objective being a list of ideas they can take away to mull over before their next meeting.
At the end of the meeting Bob thought, “Huh that was not so bad. My brain didn’t feel hijacked by needing to make a decision about new ideas right away. Now I’ll have time to think this over.”
Where can you use some variation of this idea?
Seek To Understand
It is possible that, like many other adults with ADHD, you have a hard time expressing your ideas concisely and cogently at times. This may leave you frustrated, and, perhaps, “overly” focused on trying to make yourself understood.
And you may find yourself thinking or saying things in conversations like:
- “You don’t get it!”
- “That is not what I was trying to say.”
- “No, No, I meant…”
- “Oh, just forget it!”
These responses borne of frustration make sense, for sure. We all want to be heard and really understood. And you may need to build your skills in order to express yourself better.
But your focus on being understood may be at the expense of really hearing the other person, including their words, tone and feeling.
Not hearing and responding appropriately to the other person may be one of sources of the conflict you are experiencing.
How can you listen better?
Ask For What You Need
At the same time, in order to better manage conflict, you also need to ask for what you need.
What this will look like will vary for each person, but here are a few suggested requests you might make:
- If you are having a difficult time wrapping your head around everything on the table, you might ask, “Can we talk about “X” and hold off talking about “Y” for now?
- If you are not sure you understood the other person’s point, you might say, “You know I want to make sure I got that. Did you say…?”
- When you miss a point you might ask them, “Sorry, I may have missed what you said, could you repeat that.”
- At some point you might become saturated with information and may request, “Can we stop for now and take this up… (name a date)?”
- If the topic is not something you are ready to address because your thoughts are not organized, emotions are running high or the topic triggers you in some way, you may ask, “Can we pick this up Friday morning? I need to work on….”
What other requests might you make to address the challenges you sometimes have in conversations?
Do You Prematurely Shut The Door?
You may be tempted at times to walk away from conversations or people when:
- you don’t get what you want.
- you feel misunderstood
- you don’t know what to do
That is, until you decide it is the right thing to do. For sure, sometimes you may decide closing the door on a conversation is in your best interest. Just make sure it really is in your best interest, and you are not doing it impulsively.
If this is one of your challenges, I’m sure you know what I mean.
How To Stay In The “Game”
There are many good resources to learn about communication.
- Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg is an excellent place to start.
- Also books by Kerry Patterson et al, such as “Crucial Conversations” are helpful.
- And books By William Ury, including “Getting To Yes,” will give you good tips.
Of course, there are many more books and sites, but these are just a few you could try.
You may also seek out therapy or coaching to help you learn how to engage better in difficult conversations.
What do you need to do to get better at “staying in the game?”