Distractions. Inattention. Boredom.
A woman with ADHD once told me that when she is in a conversation with someone and if the topic at hand isn’t of much interest to her, she - like many with ADHD - zones out. As she put it, “I see their mouth moving but don’t seem to hear the words. My inner world is much more interesting.”
We miss so much- teachers’ lectures, lovers’ murmurings, children’s innocent wonderings and questions, driving directions, movie plots…all due to our distractibility. How can we improve our listening skills so we’re connected with our loved ones, bosses, friends and others?
1. Become aware of your tendency to mentally roam.
2. Stay in the here and now. Remind yourself that you can think about other things later.
3. Find ways to stay connected. For some, it’s watching the person’s mouth or eyes.
4. When your mind wanders, mentally repeat what the person is saying.
5. Become more interactive in the conversation. If you tend to be a passive listener, practice interjecting your thoughts and ideas.
6. People love to talk about themselves. Ask questions; you’ll be more likely to listen if you are more active in the conversation.
7. If you’re in a class, business meeting or other type of lecture, bring fidgets to help you stay focused. Or doodle on a piece of paper. Some find it easier to listen if they take copious notes.
8. Sit in the front of the room at meetings, classes and presentations. You’ll be less likely to get distracted by others around you.
9. Many with ADHD have a tendency to take over a conversation. Remind yourself to take a break and allow others to have a chance to talk.
10. Don’t be afraid to ask the person to repeat himself. If you let the conversation go too long when your mind is elsewhere, it will only get tougher to re-connect. No explanations are needed other than, “can you say that again?”
11. Pretend that you’ll be tested on the information/conversation you’re hearing.
12. Practice not interrupting (very hard when you have ADHD). Wear a rubber band on your wrist and pluck it when you get the urge to speak out of turn.
13. Repeat (some!) of the words the speaker is saying so that it “sticks.” For example, if a person is giving you directions, re-state them verbally.
14. Be aware of distractions and eliminate them if at all possible, i.e. turn off the TV or radio. Move to a different room that is quieter. Sit away from doors and windows.
15. Think of how you can learn from this person- what is their message? How will you better understand her? Think of the conversation as a learning experience.
Listening is an art form. Having ADHD and learning to listen is a skill that you can hone with practice and patience.