Adult ADHD

Tuning Out, Drifting Off, Forgetting Names

“I often get distracted when people are talking: I just tune them out or drift off. I also tend to forget people’s names right after they introduce themselves to me. Do I have ADHD?”

ADHD teen girl in car is distracted
ADHD teen girl in car is distracted

Many people find it hard to remember names, but there are some strategies to use that may help you improve.

Repeat the first name out loud slowly and clearly as soon as it is given, saying “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Sandy.” To repeat the last name you can say one of the following, “Maynard… Is that a French name?” or “Maynard, is that spelled with an “n”?” or simply, “How do you spell your last name?” Take the time to repeat the spelling back to them. If it is an uncommon or difficult name to pronounce, repeat the name and ask them if you are pronouncing the name correctly.

Practice associating the name with a visual image of something that rhymes with or is associated with the name. For example: When introduced to Sam Roberts, visualize a robber stealing a can of Spam from a grocery store, as Spam rhymes with Sam and robber sounds like Roberts.

The more absurd the visualization is, the more likely you will remember it. Cindy Baker is an easy one… when introduced to her, visualize her face on the Pillsbury dough boy (e.g. Baker), holding a large wooden spoon and stirring cinders (e.g. Cindy) into a huge bowl of cookie dough.

Keeping engaged in conversation instead of “drifting off”, can be a challenge. Maintaining eye contact with the person will help, as well as asking questions. Some people report that if they nod to what others are saying to them, it helps to stay attentive.

Responding impulsively has gotten us all in trouble at some time or another! The most important thing to remember is to take a breath. Most of us do not realize that we tend to hold our breath or change the way we breathe when we get excited, fearful or stressed. As you are listening, make an effort to breathe deeply and slowly and to take a long deep “cleansing breath” before responding. Counting to three or even ten will also help.

Paying special attention to how we breathe and doing breathing exercises helps too. Many stress management books have breathing exercises in them. Practicing them will give you greater awareness of how you breathe (or hold your breath) in stressful situations.

Consult a physician or psychiatrist who is knowledgeable about ADD to discuss medications and treatment. Be sure to write down your questions and concerns so they can be addressed. Find out about area ADD support groups and locate the nearest CHADD chapter at so you can attend some meetings. The meetings are very informative and you will meet others faced with similar challenges who can provide support and information. You may make a new friend who would like to practice some breathing exercises with you!

[Misplaced PDAs]