Attention-Deficit Or Intention-Deficit?

ADDA Editor
  • Ari Tuckman, PsyD, MBA

    ADDA Vice President


    We're often judged by our actions, because people assume that they reflect our intentions. As rules of thumb go, this isn't a bad one and is often accurate. Unless someone has ADHD, of course. In this case, the ADHD creates a disconnect between the person's intentions and actions-they mean to do things but then don't. Or they don't mean to do something but then wind up doing it anyway. But because actions are easier to see than intentions, people who have ADHD are often accused of having bad intentions when their actions get them into trouble. We could almost say that attention-deficits are often seen as intention-deficits. This is where all that judgmental stuff comes from-if only you cared more; you're just selfish; you need to try harder; etc.

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    So if the problem is that others may misinterpret your intentions based on your actions, this obviously then suggests two possible solutions:


    1. Work on your actions. In other words, work on getting on top of your ADHD. Find treatment providers who know what they're doing with ADHD adults, then work really hard on applying what you learn from them.
    2. Clarify your intentions. No one is perfect, so there will still be times that you slip up. Make a point of letting the other person know that you meant to do better.


    I would go so far as to say that the second one is more important than the first. People will tolerate a certain amount of imperfection if they feel that the other person is trying his best. It's the callous disregard that really sets people off. So make a point of letting your family, friends, coworkers, etc. know what your intentions were, when your actions say something different. You don't need to go into a big, long explanation, just something short and sweet and then apologize for the effect that it had on them. An apology and some amends can go a long way.


    Not only will the other person feel better about you and the relationship, but you will also feel better about yourself. You may not always be able to control your actions, but you can have some effect on the consequences of those actions.


Published On: March 30, 2009