Becoming a Better Listener When You Have ADHD

 

Listening Problems for Adults with ADHD

For adults with ADHD, listening can be a challenge. Inattention and being easily distracted are two of the symptoms of ADHD that make focusing on a conversation or a lecture doubly difficult. This can often manifest in several ways. For example, Michele Novotni PhD at ADDitude.com identifies these common listening problems:

  • Non-stop talk where you voice every though in your (overactive) mind and no one else can speak
  • Not participating so the other person feels you are not interested
  • Making conversation a monologue about you
  • Frequently interrupting someone while they are speaking
  • Tuning in and out of conversations as your attention wanders

Tips for Being a Better Listener When You Have ADHD

There are a number of straightforward strategies you can use to help you become a better listener. Below are several recommended by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. at Psych Central.

Paraphrase – Repeating back to your conversation partner what you heard them say reinforces the conversation in your mind, shows the other party you are interested, and keeps you engaged in the overall flow of the conversation.

Take notes – Writing down key points and questions you have is a great aid when you are receiving instructions or listening to a lecture. Alternatively, you can ask someone giving instructions to write them down or send them in email to avoid any potential confusion.

Avoid focusing on your next sentence – Avoid thinking about what you are going to say next when you are in a conversation. This can actually help you be better informed about what the other person is saying and you will be more likely to make an appropriate response when it is your turn to speak.

Ask for key points – It is easy to become distracted if someone is rambling or getting mired down in details that are not of interest to you. If that happens, ask them for the key points they are trying to make to get the conversation back on track.

Put the conversation in context – Try to connect what the other person is saying with something you already know. Making this kind of connection will help keep you anchored in the dialogue. If you are having trouble making such a connection, ask the person you are talking with to help you make one.

Visualize the story – Many who have ADHD are visual thinkers. Try imaging what the other person is saying like a movie playing. Let your mind create images of all the colorful details associated with the conversation.

Listening Sills Can be Improved with Practice

The good news is that listening skills can be learned. Two things you can do to help accelerate your listening learning curve, suggested by Laura Rolands, an ADHD Coach, include:

Practice listening with a friend or co-worker whom you know and trust – Take turns telling each other something about a recent event.  Make it short, but long enough to tax your listening skills, say 2-4 four minutes. When your friend is done talking, reflect the story back to him or her and ask for feedback.  Discuss what got in the way of your listening and brainstorm ways you can listen more actively in the future.  Then reverse roles and tell your friend something of interest.  Practice this a few times each week and keep track to see if your listening skills have improved.

Become aware of when you are listening or not – Often the first step to becoming a better listener is to notice when you listen well and actively.  By noticing when you listen, you can focus on recreating the positives of those situations in the future.  What is the environment?  How is the speaker speaking?  What did you eat for breakfast?  How much sleep did you get last night?  By noticing the positive listening experiences that you have, you can be more mindful of creating those experiences again in the future.  After you notice the positive of when you listen well, you might also want to take notice of when you do not listen so well.  How can you use the strengths you identified above to make the situations where you don’t listen well better?

Together, practice and awareness can help you hone your active listening skills.

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Ty Pennington’s Extreme ADHD Makeover

While many celebrities are reticent to talk about their learning challenges, Ty Pennington has been vocal about his ADHD diagnosis. Pennington is the former host of ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and today the co-host of “American Diner Revival.” He says he is proof that a person with ADHD can focus on one thing long enough to make it happen.

Ty Pennington’s Childhood Struggles with ADHD

For all of his childhood, he wasn’t aware that he had ADHD. In grade school, his hyperactivity seemed in the way of everything he tried to accomplish. As a result, he spent a lot of his time in the hallway or in detention. School was difficult. By his own account, Ty says he swung on the blinds, ran around the classroom, and playfully slapped other students on the back of the head. He would read a book but not remember a word, cause chaos in the classroom daily, and spend most of his time being disciplined instead of learning. He was finally officially diagnosed with ADHD while in college.

He spoke with Nicki Gostin of the Huffington Post about his childhood experiences with ADHD.

“My mom was studying to be a child psychologist and she went to my elementary school to test the worst kid they had. They were like, “Mrs. Pennington, you really don’t want to know who that is.” They let her observe me through a window and within 20 minutes I stripped naked, wore my desk around and swung on the blinds. I was just a complete distraction to all the other students.

Back then, they didn’t even know what to call it. They put me on antihistamines to try and make me drowsy. They tried everything. It certainly affected my confidence and my belief in myself. When everyone’s afraid you’re going to hurt yourself from just mowing the lawn, you start to believe them. Once I figured out I was pretty decent at art and people were interested in hiring me, I realized I had a skill besides injuring myself.

What’s kind of funny is that I ended up working with power tools to pay my way through art school and still have all my digits.”

Finding Creativity Amid the Chaos

Pennington admits that ADHD hurt his confidence and his belief in his own abilities, but he found success by pursuing art, design, and carpentry. Later a modeling scout approached him and he began a career in print advertising, TV, and endorsements. Pennington was able to leverage his photogenic appearance, charismatic sense of humor, and love for carpentry into his own empire of television shows, magazine publications, home fashion designs, and personal appearances. He also won an Emmy award for “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”

Today he manufactures his own line of furniture and writes a regular column for Enjoy magazine in addition to his work in television. Ty Pennington is proof that no matter how strong the symptoms of ADHD might be, they can be harnessed into a creative and fulfilling career.

Celebrities with ADHD: Ty Pennington

Do You Know Your ACE Score?

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Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) such as abuse, neglect and violence in the home can be a predictor for major health problems, difficulty in school, trouble building relationships, engaging in criminal behavior or being a victim of a crime. The ACE questionnaire is a straightforward, research-tested way to help determine the degree to which an individual might be at risk.  .… READ MORE

8 ways to combat ADHD Perfectionism

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Have you ever said, I might as well not try, I won’t be able to do it right anyway? Or how about, my work on this project really sucks, I’ll just hide it under my bed and forget about it. … READ MORE

Resources for Teachers with ADHD Students

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Edge Coach Training

The Edge Foundation will train selected members of your staff to be Edge Coaches to provide one-on-one coaching for students in the school setting. The training is a comprehensive, 3 day intensive training program, based on our many years of coaching at-risk students with learning challenges stemming from ADHD, dyslexia or adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

 

Teacher & Staff Training

We will train your entire teaching and support staff in Edge Coaching techniques so they can be even more effective in their role and so they can communicate with all students in a supportive non-judgmental way.

 

Leadership Training

We offer leadership training to administrators, principals and other executive staff. This training demonstrates how   Edge Coaching techniques can be used to develop and enhance executive leadership skills in the school administration context.

 

Get Started

Contact us today to see how Edge Training can make a difference at your school.

 

Tim Kniffin
Program Director
WA Edge Schools Project
206.234.2597
tkniffin@edgefoundation.org

Derreck Torres
Program Director
CA Edge Schools Project
310.795.5333
dtorres@edgefoundation.org

Neil Peterson
Founder, Chairman, and CEO
206.910.7515
npeterson@edgefoundation.org