May 2nd, 2012
By Leslie Rouder, LCSW
This was a difficult blog post for me to write because it caused me to remember some of those embarrassing moments in which I have put my own foot into my mouth and felt like the woman in this photo. Whether or not you have ADHD, I am sure we can all look back over a time when we wished we had not blurted something out while at a meeting or social engagement. But for individuals with ADHD, this problem can create a lot of anxiety and stress around business and social functions. In addition, the inability to read social cues can sometimes prevent these individuals from receiving promotions at work and social stability in all areas of their lives. The following article addresses this concern and the challenges that go along with it.
Many people with ADHD can relate to a long history of being challenged by the uncontrollable urge to (inappropriately) blurt things out or over explain themselves. If you are one of these individuals, wondering how you too can learn to take your foot out of your mouth, and develop appropriate social skills, consider the following 3 main reasons why individuals with ADHD often struggle with this problem;
Sometimes the thoughts that go through one’s mind are so “good” that if it is not shared immediately, it might be forgotten. Here is where learning to write things down so that one does not forget, is most helpful. That way, when the appropriate opportunity arises, the information is not lost or forgotten.
- The inability to read social cues properly
Individuals with ADHD are often so distracted that they often miss body language, tone of voice and may never make eye contact, thereby missing the other’s person’s nonverbal communication cues. They may not see the person nodding their head in acknowledgment or rolling their eyes in exasperation, and may go on and on with additional unnecessary information or explanations. Learning to pace oneself with the people around you (very often this will mean slowing it down), learn to make eye contact and practice waiting one’s turn to speak, are important in helping improve one’s communication skills. Observing people’s body language and listening and matching other’s tone of voice all help in building healthy rapport.
Along with the 2 above reasons why individuals with ADHD are so challenged in social situations is that they have experienced a life time of negative social feedback, which only adds to their sense of anxiety and perhaps shame or embarrassment in a social or business context. This anxiety fuels one’s inability to pay attention and be observant of others. The best way to rid oneself of social anxiety is to achieve a sense of ease and proficiency in this area. Role playing with a coach, while practicing how to build rapport is an excellent way to learn these skills. Having someone you trust give you a silent signal from across the table when you have made your point can be helpful in providing external feedback during a social or business meeting. Hypnosis and/ or NLP can provide additional support in overcoming nervousness, while developing new strategies in developing proficiency in this area as well.
To sum it up, putting one’s foot in one’s mouth can be embarrassing, create anxiety, hold one back professionally and socially if not treated. Social skills training, coaching and NLP or hypnosis are all excellent treatment strategies to assist in developing these skills.
Although ADHD can certainly bring unique and difficult social challenges, always remember to keep your sense of humor and never forget who you are and the unique gifts that you bring to every encounter. There is no other person in this entire world who is exactly like you, nor has there ever been or ever will be again. Celebrate and rejoice in that!