Conversational Difficulties for ADHD Adults


"I'm 42, single, have no children, and live alone. Because I have had difficulty with conversations most of my life, I am shunned by family members and co-workers. What can I do?"


Sometimes it is not what we say, but the way we say it that matters most. Personally I would prefer a world where being right was all that mattered, but that isn't the world we live in. From your email, it seems like you need to refine the art of social interaction. It also sounds like you don't know what social errors you are making, so you don't know how to improve.

I recommend that you consider using the Social Skill Checklist in the back of What Does Everybody Else Know that I Don't? (Specialty Press, 1999). You can fill out the checklist and ask others to also fill out the checklists to help identify your social strengths and areas that need improvement. The checklist should provide a safe manner of obtaining feedback that others might not usually give.

Another strategy is to ask others directly what you could do to improve your conversations and social interactions. Common ADHD social errors can include:

  • interrupting
  • talking too much
  • talking too fast
  • going off track
  • not paying attention
  • not maintaining balance in relationships
  • impulsively blurting out words that would be better left unsaid
  • not being reliable, and
  • inappropriate body language.

Once you have identified the social errors you are making, you will be able to work on learning different methods of interacting that facilitate connection rather than alienation. You may find help learning the new skills through reading the book, through coaching sessions, or with a therapist trained in social skill acquisition for those with ADHD. Fortunately, there are specific skills that you can learn to improve the social connections in your life!

Dr. Michele Novotni is an internationally recognized expert in the field of ADHD. She is the former president and CEO of the national Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA), an inspiring speaker, best selling author, psychologist, coach and parent of a young adult with AD/HD. She is the author of Adult AD/HD and What Does Everybody Else Know That I Don't?.

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