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Managing Communication at Work with ADHD

Here’s what one ADHD adult wrote about managing her communication skills at work: 

I have a hard time communicating at work.  Most people don’t understand me.  I process information differently than most people do, I get bored with repetition.  I have trouble communicating even though I know what I want to say but when I begin speaking I get tongue tied and nothing comes out right.  I think it’s because I am so concerned about loosing focus and getting off subject…something I do all the time. How do you manage your ADHD at work?

My answer:

Many of my clients have this type of issue. The ADHD brain continues to process what is being said and so misinterpretations happen. You’ve actually mentioned one of the best ways to avoid that:

1) summarizing what you’ve heard. You might say: “so the decision is…, do I understand this correctly?” and you may want to check if it’s ok to discuss outside of the meeting.

2) don’t be shy to ask questions. A lot of my ADHD clients are afraid to ask any questions because they think it’s not normal to do that or that they’ll embarrass themselves or look stupid. Reality check! we all need to ask questions sometimes.

3) ask them to summarize what they understood of what you said: “I just want to make sure that I communicated effectively to you what I was trying to say. Could you recap what I just said, please”. Communication breakdowns don’t just happen to ADHDers, in fact, with the crazy busy life we lead today, many people find communication difficult. So it doesn’t sound “abnormal” to ask to summarize.

Finally, if you don’t put yourself under stress to capture absolutely everything that is being said, you’ll be able to better relax when you speak to people and a relaxed brain is able to absorb information much better than when it’s under stress.

Tell me what you think? Are there other issues you have that you’d like addressed in this blog?

3 Comments
  1. Present your concerns just as you have preesnted them here. Let your psychiatrist know that you suspect ADHD, and that you would like to discuss it. If he/she is unwilling to consider the possibility, it is time to move on to a new psychiatrist.Best of luck,~M~

  2. Hi Linda,

    What about situations where you’re the one having to inform your teammates of things? I want to trust that my coworkers will already know the information and I’m trying to avoid a) spilling too much or b) coming off as condescending or patronising. I’ve been called out before for not listening. Help?

    • Hi Amy, for one things, if there is time to prepare how you’re going to communicate, take it. Formulate what you’re going to say, even write it down and speak it out loud to check if it makes sense to you.

      If the information is relatively simple to understand, you may not need to check for comprehension. However, if it’s complex or critical, put the onus on you and say something like: “I just want to make sure I communicated correctly because I know this information is complex/critical, can someone reiterate what you understood of what I said”. Or if there are next steps, you can ask for the person to recap the next steps based on what you just communicated.

      Hope this helps.

      You’re taking

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