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Adult ADD and Relationships - Tips for Approaching Social Situations


Updated November 02, 2009

Adult ADD and Relationships - Tips for Approaching Social Situations
Question: Adult ADD and Relationships - Tips for Approaching Social Situations
"I am the mother of a young adult son with ADD. He has a job and is doing well with the work itself. His problem has to do with his coworkers. He wants everyone to like him, and he is a very likeable and sincere person, but does not seem to know how to approach people in new settings. Instead of his coworkers liking him, they shy away from him and he becomes an outsider. Do you have any tips?" --About.com Reader

Relationships at work and communication with coworkers can be a challenge for an individual with ADD. Several factors may contribute to this. Sometimes people with ADD have a hard time recognizing social cues, such as reading body language, voice tone, facial expressions or just simple nuances of interactions. They may have difficulty following the flow of conversation as their mind wanders. It can be easy to misinterpret what is being said if an individual tunes in and out during the course of conversation. Coworkers may even perceive his distraction or forgetfulness as disinterest, rudeness or standoffishness, even when it is not at all.

Sometimes those with ADD, their minds racing, work to involve themselves in conversations in an attempt to join the group and end up monopolizing the conversation rather than slowing down to share in the exchange. Their impulsive, spontaneous reactions may also lead them to say things they’d rather not.

Oftentimes, individuals with ADD are very emotionally sensitive. This can be a great strength when one is intuitive, but it can also be hurtful when it is turned inward toward self-blame or self-criticism. It is not unusual for those with ADHD to have fluctuations in mood and intense emotional reactions, as well, which may further distance them from others.

It sounds like your son has great strengths. He is succeeding in the work aspect of his job. He is likeable, sincere and sensitive -- and he has a great support in you, his mother. Here, some tips you can share with your son.

Tips for Building Better Relationships and Improving Communication at Work

  • Practice at home. How might you approach a small group at the water cooler? What would you say to a group of coworkers in the break room? Rehearse your responses to get more comfortable with these situations that may create anxiety.

  • It is perfectly fine to join groups by listening, nodding, and remaining low-key without joining in verbally. This may also reduce some anxiety about approaching a group.

  • Try to identify a few positive, kind coworkers. Nurture these relationships. It is so much easier to enter the group when you have already made a few closer friends who can help support you.

  • Nurture relationships by making contact through email. With email, you can be more deliberate about what you say. Write your email, save it but don’t send it yet. Wait until a little time has passed. Re-read your email and double-check that you have written what you mean to convey, then hit send.

  • Slow down, take a deep breath and collect your thoughts so you know what you are going to say before speaking.

  • Before joining in on conversations, make sure you are clear on what is being discussed. Spend time listening before responding. If you join a conversation, but aren’t really aware of what was being said or what points are being made, you can end up responding haphazardly and drawing negative attention.

  • Bow out of conversations gracefully. Sometimes conversations at work can go on and on until you just can’t focus any longer or begin to feel overwhelmed. Excuse yourself from the conversation before you reach your limit.

  • Be careful not to over-commit to things. It creates bad feelings at work when you say you are going to do something and are not able to do it. Understand that it is okay to say “no” or a simple “I am sorry, but I just can’t do that now.”

  • Be kind to yourself. Try not to get down on yourself. You may think and react differently, but different can be good. What do you do really well? Are you creative, adventurous, energetic, fun-loving? Jot down a list and give yourself credit for your strengths.

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