Improve Relationships by Decreasing Verbal Impulses
Positive connections and relationships with others are so important in our lives. For an individual with ADHD, however, there are often many challenges that get in the way of relating to others in a way that is rewarding. Repeated failures in friendships, dating and intimate relationships can take a toll, causing a person to withdraw and isolate him or herself. One area that can be particularly difficult is reigning in impulsive responses.
If you tend to say things without thinking, you may easily say something hurtful. Imagine how another person will feel if you impulsively blurt out that your friend’s or partner’s pants make her look fat, for example. Though you may be being honest, what you say will cause another person to feel hurt and angry. If you talk too much and monopolize conversations, take too long to get to your point, or cut off and interrupt others, you may quickly find people avoiding interactions with you. Becoming more aware of the feelings and needs of others can go a long way in improving your social connections.
Improving Verbal Interactions
Enlist the help of a friend and/or your partner to point out the times you say things without thinking. Some people realize it after the fact, but if you can begin to become more aware of these slip-ups as they are occurring, it is easier to make changes.
Everyone feels sensitive to criticism, especially if you have received negative feedback frequently. Talk with your friend about ways he or she can give you feedback that won’t feel critical. Realize yourself that this is an area you want to make improvements in, so feedback will be necessary. Ask your friend/partner to be sure to point out when you interact in a positive way, too.
Stop and think, take a deep breath and collect your thoughts so you know what you are going to say before speaking. Think about how your words will be perceived by others. Consciously think about framing your words in a way that will be helpful and informative.
Talk over strategies with your friend. One simple strategy that can be helpful is to keep a small pad of paper with you to jot down things you want to say. If another person is talking and you begin to feel the urge to interrupt, rather than blurting what you're thinking out, write down the thought instead. Let your friend know you are going to use this strategy, so she doesn’t feel as though you are ignoring her as you write. Jot your thoughts down very quickly so you can get back to refocusing your attention on and engaging in eye contact with the person who is speaking.
It is OK to let others know that you can be a little wordy at times and may have trouble getting to the point of your conversation. Ask them to help you out by giving you a sign or politely interrupting and redirecting you to try to get back to the point you wanted to make.
Recognizing social cues can be very difficult for a person with ADHD. Let your friend/partner know this is an issue for you, and ask for their help in interpreting cues. Consciously work on becoming more observant of voice tone, facial expressions and body language. Each of these will give you clues as to how another person is feeling as he speaks.
Though it is important to approach dating relationships with an open heart, try to be aware of not opening yourself up too quickly. Don't reveal your entire life story on the first date, for example. Use a trusted friend as a sounding board to help better understand some of the “rules” of dating. Though you want to learn more about this new partner and share so that he/she can learn more about you, you don’t want to move so quickly that the person feels put off.
It may help to gauge things in the relationship if you try to be a listener. This is helpful especially in the early stages of the relationship, but it continues to be an important skill in all stages of relationships. Ask your partner questions, allow him or her to share, and really listen to what this person is saying. This lets people know you are interested and care about them.
Read more about Relationships and Adult ADD/ADHD
Learn additional tips for improving relationships if you have difficulty:
Staying Focused on What Others are Saying
Forgetting Promises and Commitments
Tips for Better Anger Control
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.