Sometimes you have to engage in conversations where preparation is just not possible.
But, when faced with needing to talk on the spot, Adults with ADHD can struggle organizing and conveying their ideas in both professional and social settings.
If this is true for you, I know it can be really unsettling, to say the least.
True, there are times when the other person is just not listening. When you are faced with instances like these your inability to get your point across may have nothing to do with your communication skills. I hope you acknowledge this at those times so you don’t blame yourself.
But how about those times when you are pretty sure the other person is listening, really listening, and you feel misunderstood?
There are strategies you can use to convey your thoughts better.
ADHD and Making Your Point
Let’s start with a bit about how your ADHD may contribute to your challenges in conveying what you mean.
First, even in the best of circumstances, you may have difficulty organizing your thoughts on the spot. This is in part due to the fact that the filing system for organizing information in your brain is inefficient. You may not file words or ideas in the same place consistently.
As a result, when it comes to retrieving words or ideas, it may be 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, you may impulsively say whatever comes to mind. It may not be what you mean at all!
When you are stressed and overwhelmed this process can be even more of a challenge.
Also, external distractions (noises, conversations etc.) and internal distractions (thoughts) can make it hard to craft your message.
Another ADHD symptom that can get in the way of saying what you want is the challenge regulating your emotions.
Of course, once you are aware of your challenges, you can experiment with a strategy to address it. So, on to the workarounds…
Grow Your Awareness
The first step is to be aware of when you might be more likely to struggle with making your point.
If you know you often struggle to communicate clearly in certain settings or around certain people, you can anticipate and prepare to use strategies that work for you in these particular environments.
When you can’t anticipate that the conversation will be a challenge for you, you can still rely on cues in the moment to let you know so you can decide the best course of action.
Cues could include:
- physical cues, such as feeling like your “engine” is revved or your head is flooded.
- cognitive cues, like of an overload of thoughts.
- behavioral cues, such as excessive fidgeting or movement.
- emotional cues, like feeling people are not listening to you.
Pay attention to these cues. And, when you notice them, stop for a beat to consider what you might need to do next.
Give Yourself the Time You Need
In instances where you say whatever comes to mind it could be because your engine is running at full speed. So you can’t think clearly and be intentional with your words.
Being able to come up with lots of ideas on the spot can be helpful in many contexts, like when brainstorming or trying to solve a problem.
But, when your ideas come fast and furious and you feel compelled to share them, not only might you burden the other person with a tsunami of words, but you might also share more than you really want.
Remember, sometimes you may need time to process and organize your thoughts. Give yourself permission to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n and take the time you need.
Literally, take a deep breath
In an effort to stem the flow of your ideas mentally add periods to your thoughts as if they were sentences on a piece of paper.
Another way to give yourself time to slow down is to ask questions of the other person, such as:
- “What do you think?”
- “Have you ever had a similar experience?”
- “Does this make sense?”
You may even decide you need a moment to collect your thoughts. Maybe it is a setting where you can excuse yourself to get a drink or go to the bathroom.
How do you slow down your stream of thoughts?
Deciding What To Do With Your Thoughts
Other times it is not just a matter of slowing down, as there are other reasons your ideas may be flowing like a fast river.
Maybe you are afraid you will forget your thoughts if you don’t say them right away. So you try to get them out as fast as possible before you lose them.
If it is a context where you can take notes, you can write your ideas down so you can share them at the appropriate time. In some settings you might even consider that you don’t need to share every thought that pops into your head. That is, you can decide that it is ok if you forget an idea or two… 🙂
Another reason you may say too much, but not necessarily what you mean, is that you don’t feel heard in many different areas of your life. So you want to be sure to get in your two cents whenever you can.
If this is the case for you, you might need to delve deeper into this with a coach or therapist to figure what you need. That is who do you need to be heard by? Certainly not everyone you talk to, right?
One more reason you may not make your point clearly is that you share too many details because, well, you think it is interesting. But in doing so your point might get lost in the forest.
So that your main point gets across, share the highlights. And, if the person you are talking to wants to know more, trust that they will ask you for more information.
Staying on Point
I’ve given you all sorts of reasons why you may not say what you want, as well as some workarounds you can use to do so more often.
If you are just saying whatever comes to mind and, perhaps, saying more than you want, chances are you are also not staying on point.
You may find yourself saying aloud or thinking to yourself:
- “Um, what was the question?”
- “What was the topic?”
- “What was I trying to say?!”
On occasion most people can find themselves getting off track in conversations. Happens.
But, if this is a regular occurrence for you, and you want to be better at staying on point, here are some steps you can take:
- Yes, slow down, if necessary.
- Ask yourself, before talking, “What is the topic or question on the table? Do I have anything to add?”
- Tell the other person, “Please free to interrupt, if you have a question or are not following me.”
- Ask the other person questions such as, “Did I answer your question? Did that make sense?”
Are there other strategies you use to stay on point?
Question For You
What are you going to try so you can increase your chances of clearly making your point in your next conversation?