When the ADHD in You Offends Your Friends

Q:

I am 80 years old and have had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) all my life. Although treatment is helping me, I need to improve my social skills. How do I explain my behavior to those I have offended?

A:

We make assumptions about people’s intentions based on their actions, and ADHD actions are often misinterpreted by others -- even friends. Correct those mistaken assumptions by making clear what your intentions were, even if they weren’t obvious.

If you lose track of what your friend was saying, you might apologize and say, “I’m sorry, I think I drifted off. I was caught up in what you said and missed what you said later. I do that sometimes when I hear an interesting thought.”

This corrects what the other person may think (you weren’t interested in what she was saying). Your job is to replace incorrect assumptions with explanations.

Ari Tuckman, Psy.D., MBA, is the author of More Attention, Less Deficit, and Understand Your Brain, Get More Done. Tuckman speaks about succeeding with ADHD at CHADD each year. He has a practice in West Chester, Pennsylvania, where he works with adults and adolescents with attention challenges.

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