ADHD at Work

6 Ways to Make Good First Impressions

Attention deficit adults often lack social skills — which poses challenges when they get to know new people. Follow these tips to leave a good impression while meeting a prospective friend, co-worker, or boss.

A businessman reaches his hand out for a handshake, and wonders, "Should I tell my boss I have ADD?"
A businessman reaches his hand out for a handshake, and wonders, "Should I tell my boss I have ADD?"

Whether or not you have ADHD, first impressions have an enormous effect on personal and professional relationships. They dictate whether you get a job or a date or make a friend — and, as they say, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

Most people judge others within the first two minutes of a first encounter — some experts say, the first three seconds. Unfortunately, hyperactivity and inattentiveness are often misinterpreted by new acquaintances as a lack of respect for or interest in others. Therefore, it is wise for adults with ADHD to do all they can to make a good first impression.

You know the importance of eye contact, a smile, and a firm handshake. Here are a few other things you can do:

Dress and Act the Part

Choose your attire carefully. Try to figure out what other people will be wearing and aim to match it. This might require some detective work. The day before a job interview, one of my clients stood outside the company’s building to see what the employees wore to work. If you’re uncertain about what to wear to a social event, call ahead.

Be on time. People with ADHD often have trouble keeping track of time. But keeping people waiting is a sure way to make a bad first impression.

Pay Attention While Speaking and Listening

Monitor your voice. Our style of speaking impacts others more than we think. People with hyperactive ADHD often talk too loudly, too rapidly. Those with inattentive ADHD tend to speak too little and too softly. A vibrating watch can remind you to slow down or to speak up.

Be a good listener. Rein in your impatience and impulsivity, and let others finish their thoughts before speaking. If this is hard for you, press your tongue against the top of your mouth as you listen. Then, reflect on what they said before responding. Not sure what to say? It’s hard to go wrong with “tell me more.”

Make sure you have something to say. Many people with ADHD see small talk as a waste of time, rather than as the tension-breaker and relationship-builder it is. One way to make small talk easier is to keep up with current events. For instance, most news sites on the Internet carry the big stories in an easy-to-read format.

If you’re meeting with the parents of your child’s classmates, look over any notes that the teacher sent home with your child.

Watch the jokes. Since you don’t know the sensitivities of the people you are meeting, avoid funny comments until you get to know them better.

If you get off on the wrong foot, acknowledge it and ask, “Can we begin again?” If the other person says “no,” perhaps they weren’t your type anyway.

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