Manage ADHD Motor Mouth at Work

Use adult ADD/ADHD verbal skills to your advantage on the job.
ADHD CEO Blog | posted by Michael Laskoff | Thursday September 9th - 11:00am
Filed Under: ADHD Communication Skills, ADHD Social Skills, Focus at Work

It’s all too easy to spout monologues instead of creating and sustaining dialogues.

Michael Laskoff, ADHD CEO Blogger

As an adult with, until recently, undiagnosed -- and untreated -- attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD), predictably, my big mouth got me into a lot of trouble earlier in my career. I spoke too much, too often, and sometimes unconstructively. This was a problem for which there was a simple solution. Somebody senior would simply "suggest" that I stop speaking. This was often bruising to my ego, but it worked.

Today, I have the big chair, albeit at a small company (AbilTo). In theory, I can speak whenever and however long I’d like. In reality, I try very hard not to indulge in this freedom. A manager who spends too much time talking doesn’t listen and doesn’t learn. Moreover, he or she is sending a message that the opinions and insights of others are irrelevant. That’s very discouraging and bad for business.  

Controlling my mouth is therefore a critical skill; it starts with self-awareness, but often that’s simply not enough for a manager with ADD/ADHD. Actual behavior change is required, which is why I’ve implemented a few simple rules for myself. These are not universal guidelines, but hopefully they will get you thinking about what you can do to communicate effectively on the job. 

Rule #1: Tell People You Like to Talk
At AbilTo, I interview a lot of therapists. They are trained to listen; I like to talk. It’s all too easy to spout monologues instead of creating and sustaining dialogues. To prevent the wrong outcome, I often tell people when we first meet them that I have a tendency to be long-winded. Then I encourage them to interrupt me with questions, particularly if I have wandered off on a tangent. Stated simply, I admit that I have a problem and ask for assistance dealing with it. So long as this is done with some charm and humor, it tends to work out well.  

Rule #2: Create an Entertaining Environment
Some organizations -- the military, for example -- rely on strict hierarchy. In such a setting, as someone at the top, I’d have free reign to talk forever. Information would certainly travel down, but nothing of value would move back up. To prevent that, I try to keep things informal: People are encouraged to speak, joke, conjecture, and engage in some verbal horseplay. That keeps meetings and conversations engaging and entertaining, which diminishes my compulsion to take over. As a result, it’s much easier for me to listen rather than speak. Others are able get a word in edgewise, and everyone benefits.

Rule #3: Clock It
Once a week, we have the dreaded staff meeting. We call ours the 60 MOB, which stands for 60 minutes of bliss. As the name implies, the meeting has a hard stop at the end of an hour. That’s not necessarily much time to cover everything, so a good deal of focus is required. Thus, we plan the meeting in advance, circulate an agenda, and ask people to come prepared. Invariably, I hijack bits and pieces of the meeting, but I also watch the clock and try to stay on topic. As a result, our staff meetings are quite a bit less dreadful than they are elsewhere.

I still talk too much. I do, after all, have ADD/ADHD, and I still do a lot of my thinking out loud through dialog. But these simple rules help me to tone it down enough so that other voices can be heard. That makes me a better manager and AbilTo a better place to work.

More on Adult ADD/ADHD Communication Skills

Practice Healthy Confrontation

7 Fixes for Impulsive Speech

Pay-Attention Tips for ADD/ADHD Adults

Improve Listening Skills to Improve Social Skills

 

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