Secret to Having Good ADHD Relationships – Being Present

The first article on the topic of Having Good ADHD Relationships talked about how people habitually make incorrect assumptions about the intentions of others, often with dire consequences. The article shared what I’ve learned through the years about this phenomenon and how unconscious most of us are that we do it, how often we do it, and how many people we do it to. We talked about the case study of Maura and Jack whose relationship was on the rocks and were desperate for help as a result of years of misjudging each other. Luckily for them, they did get help in time and were able to turn their negative communication patterns around by being open to changing their unconscious assumption making.

The next secret to maintaining good ADHD relationships has to do with taking time to pay attention to each other if even for a few minutes. Giving partners, colleagues, friends or family members 5 minutes of your undivided attention once or twice a week has the capacity to maintain positively connected relationships which have fewer issues and breakdowns over time. This secret is probably the most rewarding, satisfying, joy producing, and confidence enhancing of all the secrets to maintaining healthy ADHD relationships, and yet the irony is that it also seems to be the most difficult one for most to do.

When my children were little, I remember asking my therapist how much time I should be spending with them. I was feeling guilty that as a working single mom, I was not giving them what they needed. I’ll never forget what she told me, “If you give each of your children 30 minutes of undivided time PER WEEK, they will thrive.” I couldn’t believe it! I laughed as I questioned her further. What I found out was that the trick or “secret” of her wisdom was the idea of “undivided” attention. Undivided attention is just that, undivided – no telephone, no door bell, no email, no dog walking, no TV watching, just completely focused on that child for the entire 30 minutes.

Although there were times when I was able to give my children more than 30 minutes of undivided attention, there were times when that was all I could give. The gift of knowing that was OK saved me a lot of suffering and guilt about not being a good mother.

The truth is that people are in the habit of constantly dividing their attention by choosing to multi-task, allowing a myriad of noises and distractions to surround them and their own undisciplined minds and thoughts – all preventing them from truly giving their attention to the person they are with. For example, why do people spend so much money on therapists and other professionals to listen to them? For sure to help them with their issues – but in truth, equally as much to have SOMEONE in their life who is willing to give them undivided attention and actually listen to what they are saying. As a society, we have traded quality time with each other for the desire to always be stimulated by outside factors.

People with ADHD are especially likely to chase the shiny penny and are stimulation-seeking missiles. Those with ADHD will need to make a concerted effort to get support in order to master the ability to give focused attention to the people in their lives so they are able to maintain good relationships. This is luckily something they can LEARN to do.

Secret # 2: Undivided Attention So how does one go about maintaining complete focus on the person they are with? Here are some potential strategies. Try a few and then go with the one or ones that work best. Don’t forget to give it several attempts or weeks before giving up and trying another approach. Like taking on any new habit or changing old habits, 5 to 7 weeks are the typical time it takes to establish the new habit.

Strategies for Being Present:

Try to find or create a non-distracting environment. At the very least, turn off the television, computer, blackberry or cell phone. Let the landline go to voicemail. Put the Do not Disturb sign up or go someplace quiet and out of the way.
Have conversations over meals. Eating together creates a pleasant and positive milieu making it easier to focus on the other person.
Make a mental plan to blot out distractions and practice with family and friends.
Ask for help. Let others know that you are aware most people no longer listen, really listen, to each other and it is your intention to change your behavior.
Remind yourself nothing is perfect and there will be times when you can be present and times when you cannot. Make it your mission to continuously improve.
Periodically evaluate your relationships and the positive difference that you see by focusing your attention with people. It’s important to see the benefits for you to know that it’s working.
As the founder and CEO of ADD Insights, LLC, Carol Gignoux’s passion is to provide services that transform the lives of people with ADHD. Carol is well established as an expert within the ADHD coaching profession with over 35 years experience working with ADHD and over 16 years coaching.

Carol is a national speaker on ADHD topics and a motivational speaker on living authentically. In addition to coaching her clients with ADHD, she trains and supervises new ADHD coaches, and creates seminars and workshops that show people how to achieve their full potential.