Communication Tips with ADHD

Dr. Ned Hallowell has just written a terrific piece on what it's like to have ADHD for the Huffington Post.  You can just feel that ADHD energy in his writing!  To read it, go to this link.

“I think my partner has ADHD – he shows all the classic symptoms.  How do I approach him with this without making him angry?”  This is a great question and I applaud any spouse who is sensitive enough to be asking it.  Some specific ideas and hints follow.

Conversations go all wrong when we inadvertently invalidate our partners (or worse, do so on purpose!)  Lots of people are confused about what “validating” means – they think it means “agree with” or “empathize with,” neither or which is accurate.  So I want to try to clarify what validation is, and why it’s important by sharing some examples.

There's a really interesting conversation going on in response to my last blog post that has morphed into whether or not a non-ADHD spouse should secretly record conversations to demonstrate to an ADHD spouse that they really are mishearing and mis-remembering things.  An ADHD spouse has also suggested that recordings might be a good learning tool for "where things go wrong."  Here's what I think:

Ned Hallowell likes to talk about the "moral diagnosis" of ADHD - the idea that those with ADHD are lazy or ill-willed.  The 'moral diagnosis' was what people used to turn to when they didn't know as much about ADHD as we do now.  Yet the idea that an ADHD spouse is 'lazy' is amazingly persistent.  How to get at that?

Once again, my husband and I are at odds over phones.  But how we’ve resolved it this time is illustrative of one good way to get past having legitimately conflicting objectives. The phone issue remains outstanding (for now) but I’m actually happy.  Years ago, in our “old relationship”, this situation would have caused a huge amount of conflict and pain.  Here’s how we now avoid that…

I just came across this excellent article that addresses the neuroscience of negative thinking and what we can do about changing negative patterns of thinking.  Go to this link to read it.  I'll try to post the second segment when it is published.

I ask couples to clarify their personal boundaries so that they are more likely to work as partners.  When you first start this process, though, it can feel as if you are getting “rejected,” particularly if those boundaries have to do with intimacy issues.  Let me help you understand why setting boundaries is an affirmation of your relationship, not rejection.

Do you, like many other couples, find yourselves arguing over whether or not something happened a certain way in the past?  Whether or not you’ve discussed a specific subject?  Wondering whether your partner was actually THERE when you were talking about something with him or her?  If so, you’ve probably experienced the “he said/she said” argument – the one that goes like this:

I was speaking in New York recently and was asked an excellent question by a man who has ADHD.  The gist of it was this:

“My girlfriend sends me emails all the time when I’m at work and then gets angry with me when I don’t respond consistently.  My reaction is to simply tell her ‘I’m distracted – I’ve got ADHD.  I often forget to respond to you.  Get over it!’  What do you think about that response?”  Here’s my answer: