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Improve Relationships with Good Listening Skills

Tips for Staying Focused in Conversations


Updated August 30, 2010

If you zone out in conversations, you not only miss important details and information that is being conveyed, but you also give others the impression that you don’t care about and are uninterested in what they are saying. This can create problems and even hurt feelings within social relationships. Becoming more aware of how your ADHD symptoms affect your interactions and learning new patterns of interacting with others can go a long way in healing, developing and maintaining friendships.

Below are some tips for improving concentration in conversations.

Focusing in Conversations

  • If your mind begins to drift in conversations, it is perfectly fine to ask your friend/partner to repeat what was just said. Not only do you get to hear what is said, but asking also lets that person know that what he or she says is important to you.

  • Nod your head, maintain eye contact, and make a conscious effort to attend to what is being said. This physical and active reinforcement may help anchor your attention. Some people have even found that movement, like flexing their toes in their shoes or rolling a tactile object in their hands, helps them maintain their focus a little easier.

  • As your friend or partner is talking to you, try to paraphrase back what is said periodically during the conversation. This keeps you active and involved and helps assure that you are getting and understanding the important points being made. You can even ask your friend or partner to practice this with you, as it may take a little time for this to feel natural.

  • Let your friend or partner know if the environment is just too distracting (or too quiet) for you to focus. If you are in a crowded restaurant and you can’t keep your attention on what someone is saying, move to a more quiet table. Know what works best for you, and don’t be afraid to politely let your friend or partner know.

  • Talk with your friend/partner ahead of time and develop a signal or sign you can use if you begin to feel overloaded. This way, you can bow out of conversations in a polite and positive way that won’t create hurt feelings. You may even want to set time limits on some conversations. If there is resolution that needs to be reached on the topic, plan a later time to re-address and properly deal with the issue.

    Read more about Relationships and Adult ADD/ADHD

    Learn additional tips for improving relationships if you have difficulty:
    Saying Things Without Thinking Through Consequences
    Forgetting Promises and Commitments
    Tips for Better Anger Control

    Additional Reading:


    Michael T. Bell. You, Your Relationship and Your ADD. New Harbinger Publications. 2002.

    Michael T. Bell. Dealing with the Impact of AD/HD on Marriage. Attention Magazine. April 2003.

    Nancy A. Ratey. The Disorganized Mind. St. Martin’s Press. New York. 2008.

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