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“Am I Talking Too Much?” How I’m Teaching My ADHD Brain to Listen

“I don’t think I’m more interesting than anyone else nor would I describe myself as a narcissist. However, I am told, ‘You always make it about you’… and, to be fair, I sort of do.”

a group of friends in conversation.
Priscilla Du Preez via Unsplash

I Talk Too Much

People with ADHD tend to talk — a lot. We talk because we’re excited or nervous, or because we just want to be a part of the conversation. Sometimes we talk simply to fill the silence because silence is hard for us. When filling these gaps or reciprocating interest or signaling excitement, I tend to talk about myself — and it’s one of my most frustrating ADHD traits. (I also write about myself, but that’s not nearly as annoying.)

I don’t think I’m more interesting than anyone else nor would I describe myself as a narcissist. However, I am told, “You always make it about you.” The people saying this aren’t adversaries; they’re often my best mates or loved ones. And, to be fair, I sort of do.

Why do I always turn the conversation back to me?

The reason is usually one of these two: I’m seeking advice or assurance because I’m troubled by an emotional or traumatic event, or I relate to a story that another person is telling and I want to share a similar experience or relevant information with them — and it jumps out.

These habits become more prevalent depending on my level of emotional involvement, blood-alcohol level, or general excitement for the person and/or topic. If I’m not careful, I can get sucked in to a talk tunnel, where I jump topics like a live wire — overriding or dismissing or drowning out my conversation partner’s contributions. Eventually, that person (and sometimes other people privy to the conversation) look at me awkwardly and my bubble bursts. They may write me off as a bad listener or worse, someone who doesn’t care. But I absolutely do care! I want to hear the rest of their story!

As an extrovert, I fill the room and like to make people laugh, and two pints down I’m on a roll, ready to entertain. But by the end of my show, it feels like people sometimes are tired of me.

[Read This: “The Rules of Conversation Mystify My ADHD Brain. But I’ll Keep Talking.”]

There’s rarely a pay-off to this behavior. I’m not forming or solidifying deep friendships. Would you trust your deep secrets to or build a deep emotional connection with the guy telling outlandish (but most true) stories at high volume in the center of the party?

Learning to Become an Active Listener

I actually find the quietest people most interesting because they just sit, listen, and learn from someone else (without interruption). They meditate on the other person’s thoughts and feelings before responding. In doing so, they provide a safe space, where judgements are considered and welcomed.

I discovered from a friend that this is called “active listening.” She explained that active listeners listen for one minute or two, then ask for more detail, and use the word “you” instead of jumping to “I.” A revelation!

I’ve since been working on active listening and curbing my propensity to talk too much. So, I created some goals that you may like to try.

[Read: ADHD Makes It Difficult to Concentrate on Conversations]

Talk Too Much? Try These Tips

  • Imagine you are a ghost at a séance. Your stories and opinions do not matter unless you’re summoned by the person talking.
  • Count to three after someone finishes speaking to ensure they’re done talking. Then ask how they feel and/or what they think about the conversation topic, even (and especially) if you have five similar stories bursting in your head.
  • Deliver your stories as if you’re sending a voice note — keep it short and no longer than five minutes. Otherwise, no one will be listening by the end.
  • Don’t analyze their points based on what you think, but do get the analysis from them later on if you want it. Most people just want to hear their opinions validated. However, this doesn’t mean doggedly agreeing with them.
  • Think of the conversation like a game of catch. When you are asked a direct question it’s as if a ball is thrown to you. Wait a second, keep eye contact while you think of a response, and then throw the ball back with a question of your own.
  • If you get lost in your thoughts, stop and ask someone to repeat the question.
  • If the conversation is going well, slow your drinking pace to two-thirds of theirs. It’s cheaper, and you’re less likely to say something you’ll regret.
  • Don’t talk to new people about anything controversial or risqué.
  • People don’t want to know that you have ADHD or, frankly, any of your medical issues unless it’s relevant to the conversation.
  • You don’t have to be funny to be engaging. Finally, don’t make excuses for who you are or for going off on a tangent. It’s also okay to be a bit rough around the edges — the best people are.

Talking Too Much: Next Steps

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