Helping a Partner Who Interrupts

Q:

"My fiancé, who has ADHD, is great one on one. But when we go out with friends, he talks too much and interrupts. It’s embarrassing. What can I do?"

A:

It’s not unusual for ADDers to have trouble in group settings. I suspect that your fiancé finds it hard to keep track of everything that’s going on in a group. He’s so worried that he might respond inappropriately to what the others say that he ends up talking excessively, so that people have to respond to him.

First, I’d urge you to consider just how troublesome his behavior really is. Maybe your friends could be a little more understanding. I wouldn’t mention his ADHD—just talk about how he behaves, and assure them that he means well. Be sure to remind them of your fiancé’s good qualities, and ask them to be more tolerant.

If this problem continues to bother you, you should clear the air with your fiancé. It’s not going to be easy to talk about, so you might want to acknowledge that from the start by saying something like, “We agreed to keep our relationship completely honest, so, even though this is uncomfortable, I wanted to talk about something that’s been bothering me about our social life. I love that you’re an entertaining and enthusiastic person, but these traits sometimes become exaggerated when we’re in groups. Your enthusiasm causes you to interrupt, or talk too much. Is this something you’d be willing to work on with me?”

If he agrees, you can suggest the “Stop, look, and listen” self-monitoring technique. During any social interaction, he should stop talking every few minutes. Then, he should look around to see if anyone is frowning, shaking their heads, or turning away. Finally, he should listen to everyone’s voices, asking himself, “Am I speaking too fast or too loud?” and, “Does anyone sound irritated?”

Geraldine Markel, Ph.D., is an educational psychologist and principal of Managing Your Mind coaching and seminars. As a coach for adults and adolescents with ADHD, she provides strategies to enhance productivity and decrease stress. Geri served as a faculty member in the School of Education, at the University of Michigan. Her most recent book is Actions Against Distractions: Managing Your Scattered, Disorganized and Forgetful Mind. A previous book, Defeating the 8 Demons of Distraction, was a USA Book News, Best Books Award Finalist.

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