ADD/ADHD adults report that they often feel like people “tune them out” in conversation.
Conversing well is a skill that many people today simply do not have, but it can be learned.
What makes a productive conversation, and how can you ensure that you will not be “tuned out”?
An Exchange Of Ideas.
“Conversation” is defined as simply an exchange of ideas. The main idea here is “exchange.” It requires both talking AND listening – something we can all use practice.
So many of our personal interactions these days are being replaced by social media or the passive nature of various screen communications.
For this reason, the art of personal communication is quickly becoming a lost one, whether or not ADD/ADHD is a factor. People today listen, not to hear, but to respond. They simply wait for a break in conversation so that they can get a word in.
People with ADD/ADHD tend to be impulsive, distractible, and excitable. These traits can lead conversations wildly off course, making them difficult to follow.
When ADD/ADHD people get hyper focused in the direction of their thoughts, they can speak in a rather “stream of consciousness” way. In other words, their thoughts can get stuck on a single topic, making it hard for anyone else to give their input
The other person in conversation simply gets lost, and they start to “tune out” the conversation. There is no longer an exchange, so there is nothing to engage in.
The Most Important Conversational Skill: Active Listening.
The most important skill in conversation is not learning how to speak – it’s learning how to listen. In “How To Win Friends And Influence People,” Dale Carnegie says, “You will make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years trying to get other people interested in you.”
It sounds easy enough. But the reality is that listening is an active skill.
Just like any skill, it requires practice, particularly for those with ADD/ADHD.
When someone feels as though they are being listened to, they become more engaged in conversation. They also feel as though they are important to the person they are talking to.
Here is the key: Once someone feels important, they are engaged in conversation and they will want to hear you as well. You may find too, that once you become a great listener, you’ll naturally find yourself genuinely interested in other people.
If you want to hone your active listening skills, remember a few tips:
Stay on track with what your colleague is saying by asking questions.
This will help keep your focus on topic as well. “What kind of promotion did you get at work?”
Repeat back what they say.
This is an easy way to show you are listening.
“So you’re saying that your boss doubled your workload overnight?”
Affirm the person you’re talking to.
Everyone wants to be affirmed and validated.
A simple “I understand” will take you far. “I’m sorry to hear that – I would be upset too.”
Use your body language to communicate you’re listening.
Lean in to the person you’re talking to when appropriate.
Look them in the eye comfortably.
Try to visualize what they are saying.
This is how you can receive what the other person is saying and internalize it.
Communication is a challenge for most people, whether or not they have ADD/ADHD.
Learning to be a great listener takes practice, but it’s worth it. You won’t excel at it immediately, but a little bit of intentional effort in this direction will help you communicate effectively.