Living With ADHD: The Importance of Body Language

Health Writer
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Individuals with ADHD often have difficulty with unspoken language, according to a study published in 2013. The researchers concluded, "Pragmatic language skills are impaired in many children with ADHD and may partially account for high rates of social impairment."

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Why unspoken language is important

Pragmatic language skills include tone of voice and body language and are important in effective communication. This unspoken language gives insight into what someone is thinking.

Research has found only 7 percent of communication comes from spoken word, 38 percent comes from tone of voice and 55 percent comes from body language. For effective communication, you must not only understand another person’s body language but understand what you are saying without words.

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What the face tells you

Facial expressions but they don’t always tell the full story. Instead, look for these signs:

  • A genuine smile will crinkle the skin around the eyes
  • Raised eyebrows or pursed lips often signal discomfort, surprise, worry or fear
  • A clenched jaw signals stress
  • Exaggerated nodding indicates the person wants your approval or is worried about what you think

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Body positioning

You might know that closed arms and legs show a resistance to what you are saying, but did you know that when someone turns their body away from you it signals the person has lost interest or might find what you are saying disagreeable. Keeping your arms and legs open might even help you remember the conversation, according to authors Barbara and Allan Pease who wrote the book, The Definitive Book of Body Language: The Hidden Meaning Behind People’s Gestures and Expressions.

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The feet tell where you want to go

During a conversation, discreetly glance down at your, or your conversation partner’s feet. Where are they pointing? Feet are usually pointed at where someone wants to go, what holds their interest or what they want to hear. Although people with ADHD have a hard time staying still, when you are shuffling your feet or moving them around, it signals you want to move away from the other person.

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Appearing confident

If you want to appear confident, even when you don’t feel it, hold your body in an erect position. Lift your shoulders up and slightly back, and raise your head.

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Reach out and touch someone

Touch increases the chance of developing a bond with someone. In workplace, formal or when meeting someone new, reach out to shake their hand. With people you know, a light touch on their arm, a handshake or a hug helps. Of course, touch should always be appropriate and if someone steps back or resists your touch, don’t be offended.

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Remove barriers

One of the easiest ways to show someone you are interested in what they have to say is to remove any barriers between the two of you. Gently move aside books, coffee cups, menus, flower vases, or other objects that might obstruct your view or cause clutter between you and your conversation partner.

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Mirror body language

Copying body language shows you are receptive to what the other person is saying. Mirror your conversation partner's body posture and gestures. It is an unspoken way of saying, “I am listening to you and I care about what you have to say.”