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If You Love Someone Who Has ADHD, Don’t Do These 20 Things

If You Love Someone Who Has ADHD, Don’t Do These 20 Things

You wonder if everybody’s life is as chaotic as yours. Something’s not right.

Your child doesn’t act like the other children in the class. Homework assignments guarantee a night of fights, slammed doors, and tears shed. The teachers call you in for conferences weekly. Your husband gets fired again claiming all his bosses are jerks. You work overtime so your car isn’t repossessed. Your sister cancels every time you plan to meet for dinner. Your teenager is hanging out in the local piercing parlor. And your daughter can’t find her car keys whenever she’s walking out the door. Your relationships are constant conflicts.

You’ve considered splitting up, but you can’t afford to live on your own. You’ve thought of quitting your job, packing your bags, and running away. You’re tired all the time. You’re trapped, choking, and you cannot breathe.

Loving someone who has ADHD can make your life crazy if you don’t get a grip on it. The doctors prescribe medication. The therapists tell you what to do, but your home is as wild as a college frat house.

A person with ADHD can be hard to live with. The thought patterns and behaviors of a person with ADHD never go away. They are manageable, but that too, is a full-time challenge.

Without proper care, ADHD can lead to substance abuse, overeating, unemployment, toxic relationships, divorce, constant conflict, academic failure, insomnia, stress, anxiety and panic attacks. A person with ADHD has an active thought process of options, possibilities, and scenarios the average person cannot even imagine.

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Eventually, reality bites. The rent is due, the electric bill is unpaid, and your checking account is overdrawn again. You’re exhausted from staying awake worrying all night. You want to run away, but your problems are like misspelled tattoos that stay with you wherever you go. There is hope. It doesn’t have to be that way. As a person with ADHD has to work through his challenges, you as his lover, parent, sibling or friend also have to learn coping skills to improve the situation. Don’t do these 20 things if you want to have a happier life together.

1. Don’t live in denial – Admit the truth.

Call the problem by its name: Attention-Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder. Your life will become easier when you identify it, own it, talk about it, and stop running from it. Admitting that it exists is the first step to freedom. There is no reason to feel ashamed. Many of history’s greatest contributions have come from people with ADHD. Scientists, authors, artists, musicians, and entrepreneurs have become successful because they have a creative vision that average people do not possess.

2. Don’t criticize – Judge favorably.

Realize that your loved one with ADHD is trying his hardest, even though it’s not good enough for your standards. Lighten up, go easy, and give them time. They will accomplish what they have to do, but not on the schedule you have in mind. Allow them time and space to accomplish their tasks. Influence them with love, not with criticism.

3. Don’t accept excuses – Encourage and inspire them to achieve their goals.

ADHD isn’t an excuse for an irresponsible lifestyle. It just means that what comes easy to you, may be difficult for them. It doesn’t mean that they can’t do something, it means that it’s harder for them. Simple tasks that you take for granted; such as opening mail, trashing junk mail, and placing your bills in a “to be paid” folder, feel like a climb up Mt. Everest to a person with ADHD. It doesn’t make sense to someone who doesn’t have it. Try to be encouraging, in spite of your doubts and disappointments. Point out the times when they suceeded.

4. Don’t be a coach – Be a cheerleader.

Stand on the sidelines; grab your pom-poms and start cheering. Words of encouragement have more power than insults and put-downs. Coaches are in-your-face critics. Their job is to point out the negative. Cheerleaders stand on the side, rooting for success, believing in their teams ability to achieve. Let your loved one with ADHD know that you are on the same team.

5. Don’t make unrealistic demands – Stay with the possible.

When a person with ADHD gets stressed out, an obsessive thought pattern of “what-ifs” begins. Screaming and shouting, “Just do it already. Stop making such a fuss,” will not break through compulsive thinking. Accept the fact that they may not be able to do what you want, when you want it, or how you want them to do it. If it’s something important, be specific.

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6. Don’t give instructional lectures – Be respectful.

Lectures are not helpful if a person feels like they are being spoken to like a child whose baseball broke the neighbor’s window. If you have something to say, be sure to choose the right words at the right time. The timing of your conversations determines if you will be heard or ignored. Schedule a time to talk. Rehearse your speech so that it comes out as love, not control.

7. Don’t be impulsive – Practice patience.

Someone with ADHD is impulsive. If you are the rational thinker in the relationship, your ADHD loved one is depending on you  to be wise and patient. Two impulsive people reacting emotionally and regurgitating information at each other, does not make for a happy ending.

8. Don’t be a martyr – Call for backup.

Have a support team to help you through the struggles. You don’t have to manage everything alone. Call a friend, a therapist, or a loving relative. Find someone who just listens. If you don’t want advice or suggestions, a comforting shoulder to cry on can strengthen you and change your outlook

9. Don’t forget your goal – Prepare for a positive outcome.

Sometimes words come out that you later regret saying. They can’t be taken back. Hurtful words leave deep wounds. Keep your goals in mind. What would you like to accomplish? Ask yourself, if I say this will it lead to a negative or a positive outcome? It’s up to you. You determine the outcome. Go slow. Think before you speak.

10. Don’t feel guilty – Know that you are doing your best.

Feeling that your loved one is hard to love, or that you don’t like their behavior is a sad feeling to experience. If you’re a parent and are upset about your child’s behavior, guilt runs through your veins. It’s not your fault. You’re doing the best you can. You’re in a tough situation and you aren’t always sure which is the best way to handle it. Be gentle with yourself.

11. Don’t try to control them – Control yourself.

Intimidating or threatening does not inspire change. Trying to control people is never effective. When you don’t know how to motivate your loved one, think about how you can change your approach. You can’t control other people; you can only control your words, thoughts, and reactions towards them.

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12. Don’t lean in – Step back.

Intense emotions are negative emotions. Leaning in and pushing a person to perform isn’t the most effective way to reach the result you desire. When stress is high and you feel like screaming, back off. Stepping back gives you time to breathe, relax, and readjust your thoughts.

13. Don’t label them – Be compassionate.

Judgment is easy; compassion is hard work. Don’t box them in as a “forgetful, lazy, disorganized mess,” or “someone who will never succeed.” Labels create pre-determined expectations that last for years. People become what you see them as.

14. Don’t say “never” – Nothing stays the same.

When times are tough, it’s hard to remember that tough times don’t last forever. Things will get better. Believe it. “Never” is a word of hopelessness. Start saying, “not yet.” The only thing constant is change.

15. Don’t say “Just do it” – Understand that they can’t.

An ordinary thinker cannot understand how a person with ADD/ADHD can’t accomplish the simplest tasks such as paying bills, organizing papers, and putting their clothes away. These tasks may be easy for you, but remember, the person with ADHD also has a hard time understanding why they can’t pay a bill or manage their mail.

16. Don’t be afraid to help out – Offer a helping hand.

It’s important to teach your loved ones how to be responsibly and independently. But also remember, that there are times when it’s okay to offer assistance. Even Einstein had a helper. His wife cooked for him, cleaned up after him and did his laundry because his high-powered mind was too busy discovering the quantum workings of the universe to take time to put his dirty socks in the laundry bin.

17. Don’t have unrealistic expectations – List what you love about them.

Accept your loved ones as they are. Just like with any other relationship, you have to look for the good, and stay focused on it. Never lose sight of the awesome qualities of your ADD/ADHD loved one. If it’s your partner, remember that their fun-loving, impulsive personality is probably why you fell in love with them. Go back to the beginning. Love them again, as if you first met them. If it’s your child, remember the feeling of holding your newborn baby in your arms for the first time.

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18. Don’t neglect other family members – Spend time alone with them.

ADD/ADHD can take over your home environment, subliminally controlling everything and everyone in it. Spend time with other family members. They need you, too. Go to the movies or go get some ice cream with them. Remind them that they still exist for you. Hug them and hold onto them.

19. Don’t get mad – Pause for peace

Make peace in your home and your life your priority. The other lessons will soon fall into place if your home is a loving environment. Anger is easy. Staying quiet takes strength. Put your relationships before your feelings. You don’t have to veerbalize every comment that comes to mind. Place your ego on the side until your anger subsides.

Don’t ever accept abusive behavior of any type. There are certain relationships that are unhealthy, toxic, and need to end. Seek professional help.

20. Don’t forget to love yourself – Do something that makes you happy

ADHD relationships can suck the joy out of life. You realize that you haven’t laughed in a month. You forgot how to smile, and you can’t remember the last time you had fun. Make time for yourself. Do something that makes you happy. Have fun again, and do it often.

Let this little story inspire you:

After she received an ADHD diagnosis for her 7-year old son, a woman went to to the psychiatrist. Frustrated and distraught that she couldn’t handle her own child, she cried, “What more can I do? I’m doing everything I can. I don’t know how to handle my own child.” He looked at her and quietly answered, “Love him more.”

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That wasn’t the answer she had hoped for. Through her tears, she pleaded for answers, “Love him more? I’m giving this child everything I can. I’m empty inside. I’ve got nothing left. How can I love him more?” “Try harder. Dig deeper. You can do it,” he answered.

When you love someone who has ADHD, they are a part of you. They live in your head and in your heart. You were chosen for this task. Love them more.

More by this author

June Silny

ADHD Coach, Writer, ADDitude Magazine featured contributor

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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

More Tips Improving Listening Skills

Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

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