You probably have that “quirky” friend. You know the type.
They’re often the life of the party but may have a hard time reading subtle social cues.
They’re brilliant at carrying on conversation but tend to interrupt others and blurt out whatever is on their mind. They’re often late to meet-ups and more often than not, they’ve forgotten something, be it a beach towel, their wallet, or their ticket to the event.
Some people identify as a quirky friend within their social circle. They honestly didn’t understand your sarcastic joke. They didn’t mean to interrupt; they were just so excited to have something to say, and poor impulse control makes it hard for them to wait their turn. They were late because they couldn’t find the “must-have” thing that they ended up leaving home without.
Children with ADHD are approximately four times more likely to be rejected by their peers than neurotypical children. They have fewer friends and poorer relationship quality with the ones they do have. One study even found that 76% of children with ADHD and at least one conduct-based co-morbidity did not have a single reciprocated friendship in their classroom.
Some kids go on to receive the support they need to develop appropriate, acceptable, and engaging social skills later in life. However, not everyone does. And as an adult, it’s harder to develop social bonds. So, if you’re struggling, there is help.
Adult ADHD and Social Skills An Overview
If you have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), you know that it can impact every facet of your life, including your social skills. And you’ve probably been struggling in interpersonal areas for as long as you can remember.
You interrupted the CEO during an important work meeting and your immediate boss wants to talk to you about it.
You were an hour late to your best friend’s engagement party and she is furious.
Your spouse has said “Are you even listening to me?” at least three times today alone – and no, you weren’t listening.
If these scenarios sound all too familiar, it may be time for a social skills tune-up.
It shouldn’t matter, but… it does.
The first thing to do is to realize it’s not your fault. You aren’t socially sabotaging yourself purposely; most times you aren’t even doing it consciously. Instead know your brain is wired differently than the brains of your family, friends and co-workers. And this alone makes socializing really hard. But, if you really want to improve your social game, it’s time to implement strategies to help you navigate social situations. Here are some best practice social skills for ADHD adults.
1. Learn to read the room.
One of the best ways to teach yourself social skills is to look at what everyone else around you is doing. You can even zoom in on a specific person if it helps. “Paul seems to have his act together. I’m going to keep an eye on what he does and try to do the same.” This doesn’t mean you’re trying to turn into Paul; he’s just serving as an example of the proper way to behave in this situation.
2. Pay attention to body language and voice tone.
Body language, voice tone, and other subtle social clues can go unseen when you have ADHD. This is one reason why ADHD adults can find the social game tricky, hard to manage, and frustrating when it comes to gaining and maintaining friendships. This is why it’s important if you have ADHD to try to learn how to notice subtle social cues.
Also, there are social truths, that many people with ADHD don’t understand or ascribe to. For instance:
- People often say one thing and mean another.
- People lie.
- Someone’s body language doesn’t jive with their tone of voice
- People use sarcasm.
- People talk about others in inflammatory, irresponsible ways.
While these are social customs, many ADHD Adults don’t play by the ‘accepted’ rules. And what’s worse they may reject them because these things defy the boundaries of integrity and honesty.
However, body language, words, and voice tone provide instrumental cues and offer the keys you need to decipher what they really mean. Are they looking you in the eye or glancing at their phone? Does their voice sound clear and genuine, or curt and exasperated? These are the social cues many people with ADHD have a difficult time picking up on, but with practice, you’ll soon learn to look for them automatically.
3. Cement the details in conversations.
Echoing what someone has said back to them helps you to reinforce that knowledge in your mind. If Angie says “OK, the movie starts at 1, so we’re going to meet at Amanda’s at 12:15”, you can respond with “Got it. We’ll meet at Amanda’s at 12:15 and hit the 1 o’clock show.” This gives Angie the opportunity to correct you if you’ve misunderstood or provide additional information you might have missed. Once you’ve confirmed the time and place, write it down or add it to your calendar then and there.
4. Slow it down by counting to ten.
Impulsivity is a huge social skills gap for adults and their social game. It can cause you to talk out of turn, be reactive, lose your temper, or make a poor choice. You need to take the time to determine what your next step should be. Counting to ten before doing or saying something allows you to process the situation and make a decision based on rationale rather than impulse.
5. Prepare before by visualizing the situation.
Before you attend a social event, spend some time visualizing how it will look. Mentally walk yourself through the scenario on a “practice run.” Identify areas where you might struggle and figure out the steps you can take to mitigate them ahead of time. That way, you can show up at the event confident that you’re prepared for whatever happens!
Poor social skills caused by ADHD can have a huge impact on your life and relationships, both personal and professional. When you make a habit of following proven strategies, however, you’ll be a social butterfly in no time!
Would you like more systems and strategies to help you combat the effects of adult ADHD? As an ADHD coach, I’m happy to help. Book your Discovery Call now!