Jun 14, 2023 | Neurodiversity

Coworkers brainstorming and discussing a communications plan

Communication Style and Adult ADHD

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When you hear the term ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) most people think of young children. However, ADHD can look different for everyone, and it can impact adults as well. So, today, we want to discuss the meaning of Adult ADHD and how it can impact communication.  

What is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?  

ADHD, as described by the Mayo Clinic, is a mental health disorder that includes a combination of persistent problems, such as difficulty paying attention, hyperactivity, impulsive behavior and executive dysfunction. While it is common for symptoms to begin in early childhood, and continue into adulthood, in some cases (particularly in women), ADHD may not be diagnosed until the individual is older. For adults, hyperactivity may be less, but struggles with impulsiveness, restlessness, focus and executive dysfunction can persist. This can impact personal and professional relationships, work, and everyday life.   

Communication and ADHD  

Communication can be challenging for many people. For those living with ADHD, there are some differences that can be observed in comparison to those who are not. 

Some of these differences may include the following:  

Attention span and focus  

This is a main challenge for individuals with ADHD. Being able to maintain dedicated focus and attention to tasks, for long periods of time, can be difficult. This can result in frustration on the part of others as they may feel like they don’t have the interest of the individual, or that they aren’t communicating effectively. Therefore, it is key to keep conversations clear and concise, engaging and on topic. Keep in mind that lengthy and extensive explanations may lead to the person becoming distracted, resulting in them losing interest in the conversation. Something that can help is to break down information into smaller, more digestible bites, which can help maintain focus.  

Time management  

Adults with ADHD may struggle with time management. In some cases, keeping track of appointments, deadlines, or maintaining structured conversation can impact overall communication with others. Tips to help manage this are to give specific instructions, prepare a structured agenda, and provide written notes. You may also want to consider regular reminders as follow-ups, which will assist in staying on task, meeting deadlines, and keeping track of important details.  

Interrupting  

We are all guilty of not waiting our turn to talk and interjecting our thoughts and opinions into a conversation. However, adults with ADHD may struggle with impulsivity, which can result in frequently interrupting others while speaking. Since they may find waiting their turn challenging, interrupting might be a common theme while communicating. They aren’t trying to be rude, or inconsiderate, so remaining patient is important. If this happens, try to redirect the conversation, and allow the individual to express themselves before returning to the main topic.  

Multi-tasking  

Since adults with ADHD are often engaged in many activities at the same time, this may impact communication. To outsiders, they may seem restless or fidgety, which can be distracting or frustrating to the person whom they are communicating with. Again, being patient is key to successful communication! Encourage participation in the conversation, suggest taking notes, and offer frequent breaks (during longer meetings) to help maintain focus. Allow folks to stand up and move their bodies in meetings or make the use of non-intrusive fidgets acceptable. 

We all have different communication styles. Therefore, it is important to meet the needs of everyone, no matter their situation. Educating yourself and understanding various communication styles will help encourage effective and meaningful communication.

Learn more on this topic

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