Conversational Skills for Adults with ADHD

Health Writer

For adults with ADHD, conversational skills don't always come easily. You might blurt out responses, butt in conversations, monopolize conversations or become distracted and lose track of what others are saying. You might feel out of place or rejected. You might avoid social situations where you will be required to hold conversations. The following tips may help.

Stop what you are doing when someone is talking to you. It is difficult to actively listen to someone if you are busy with other tasks. Take the time to stop and pay attention to the other person.

Make eye contact. Not only does this tell the other person that you are interested and listening it helps you focus on what is being said.

Repeat back what you heard. You don't need to repeat it word for word; a short summary works just as well. This lets the other person know you heard him or her. This also allows for clarification and helps you better remember what was said.

Pay attention to non-verbal cues during conversations. Non-verbal communication, such as tone of voice, body posture, hand gestures and facial expressions can tell you a lot about the meaning behind the words. Non-verbal communication often reflects the emotions underneath what a person is saying.

Learn to pay attention so you can better understand what another person is trying to communicate. Paying attention to non-verbal cues can also alert you to faux pas and blunders and help you to quickly recover.

Ask questions. Questions help a conversation become give and take. Ask questions if you need clarification on something or to find out more about a topic someone is discussing. Questions show your interest and keep you more engaged in the conversation. Try focusing on one point instead of going off in different directions.

Use the person's name during the conversation. This shows interest and attentiveness.

Practice taking a breath in between sentences when you are talking. Adults with ADHD often talk non-stop, making it difficult for others to follow your thoughts. Taking a breath in between each sentence helps you slow down.

Don't interrupt. People with ADHD frequently blurt out their thoughts. Some say it is because they are afraid they will forget and others say it is more impulsive. Pay attention to the conversation and look for an appropriate time to interject. Wait for the speaker to stop or finish a thought. If you have a question or a comment, ask before saying something, for example, "Excuse me, may I ask a question?" Getting in the habit of asking first will reduce how often you blurt responses or interrupt others.

Follow along with the conversation. Adults with ADHD frequently tune-out or become distracted during conversations. To better follow along: use non-verbal cues, such as smiling or nodding when appropriate, during a break in the conversation, repeat back what you heard, visualize the conversation in your mind.

Conversational skills take practice. Ask friends and relatives to help you practice. Ask them to point out times when you monopolized the conversation or interrupted others (be careful and don't let this become a bash session.) You might want to join a group, such as a hiking group, reading club or sports team. The more you place yourself in social situations, the more chances you will have to practice your conversational skills.