No perfect conversationalists
Updated: Apr 13
We each have unique communication styles and preferences formed by our personality, neurobiology, training, and experiences. When it comes to ADHD traits presenting in conversations, there is no standard list of strengths and challenges.
There are no perfect communicators, but ADHD can impose additional obstacles when interacting with others.
ADHD children receive a disproportionate amount of direct and indirect punishment for their behavior, which impacts how continued difficulties form in the frontal lobe.
What plagues us?
Impulsivity is thought to drive a lot of the ADHD adult's struggles. Some say we lack the feedback mechanism to stop us from always following an impulse to speak our mind. We may be too blunt, chronic interrupters who talk over others, prone to oversharing, or battling emotional regulation in conversation.
On the flip side of energy out, we must acknowledge that when we expend energy to manage ourselves in social settings, it can physically and mentally wipe us out.
Fatigue is a constant companion for many neurodivergent people.
This exhaustion can be difficult to fight if we also become disinterested in what's being discussed. We fade during meetings, classes, and conversations as the part of our brain that controls alertness (Reticular Activating System) may be getting an inconsistent flow of neurotransmitters to keep us engage. If we can't get the RAS to spark, it is really difficult to get the juice through The Attention System up to the frontal lobe where a lot of our focus is managed.
When we know our brain will show up in unpredictable ways, it can make it painful to risk social interactions. Some with ADHD have social anxiety that keeps them shut down and afraid of what others will think of them.
Essential conflict management skills, like getting out of conversations, giving negative feedback, or disagreeing, can feel too high stakes to engage so we just avoid situation where we may need them.
We also struggle with a fear of being misunderstood. Maybe we remember the pain of criticism on the winding path we took through our logic that others couldn't follow or understand.
All of that and we barely touched on how we need more time to process or have sensory sensitivities that can impair our receiving of information.
We adapted our conversation style to keep the peace (or to upend it).
Some of these challenges are the ADHD – impulsivity, getting distracted by our own thoughts, talking too much, staying alert. However, the other things – social anxiety, avoiding conflict, a fear of being misunderstood and judged - may be ways we've adapted as a response to some traumatic interaction(s) in our past.
The lies we believe about ourselves show up in our relationships and conversations.
They show up in the performance review at work during which we we can't hold back tears, in the way we exhaust ourselves trying to self-manage in group settings, when we betray ourselves by laughing with those who are making snarky comments about us.
For many of us, connection and engaging in discussion can be stressful and painful.
SELF-TRUST in our conversations
We're focusing this year on nurturing self-trust. We've lost our ability to see or hear ourselves, so we rely on others to give us the input to know if we're okay.
Other people's assessments of us are not always right, and sometimes they're harmful. Other times, they are right, but they are not the right messenger.
What if we trusted ourselves to self-manage in conversations?
What if we accepted that sometimes (often?) we talk more than others or may misstep?
What if we found ways to acknowledge when others have more to say than we're interested in hearing?
What if we answered honestly when someone asked if we wanted to talk about something?
What if we found ways to kindly bow out of discussions we can't or don't want to have?