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You have ADD/ADHD so you’re probably a little more forgetful, impulsive and inattentive than the average person.

It’s not your fault… but since most people you interact with won’t know of or take into account your condition, you’ll still get punished socially for your lapses.

Learning How to Accurately Interpret Non-Verbal and Polite Communication

ADD/ADHD causes inattention.

It’s just hard to stay focused on what someone says to you, and how they’re saying it. 

The lack of attention, unfortunately, can cause you to miss important details, or more likely, to miss the social cues that reveal the true intention and meaning of any verbal communication.

An overly blatant example might be:

The popular girl sighed and rolled her eyes as she said,”I guess you can come too, if you really want to…”

Anyone paying close attention would understand the non-welcoming intention lurking below the words, but if you took the statement at face value, you might end up in an awkward social situation.

Unfortunately, our daily interactions are filled with non verbal messages and social cues, and they are rarely as easy to spot as in the example above.

With inattention, you may think you understand the message, but you actually miss the point entirely.

It’s not fair (!) but since you can’t do much about correcting that, you might as well work on learning compensatory strategies that minimize how ADD/ADHD affects your social relationships.

Finding the Message behind the Words – 8 Things to Keep in Mind

Fortunately, since you already know of your attention deficits, you can make a concerted effort to better your communication skills.

None of the following is likely to surprise you, but the trick to improving yourself is to take note of what makes-up effective non verbal communication and then to make a concerted effort to pay more attention to what most people already take for granted.

  1. Make an effort to pay attention to body language and try to maintain eye contact during conversation. Ask yourself if body language is congruent with spoken words. If it's not – ask yourself why not?
  2. Also pay close attention to a person’s tone of voice and pattern of speech. If a person’s tone of voice doesn’t match their words – using a bored or distracted tone to voice a caring sentiment, for example – you should ask yourself whether the words express true feeling or are spoken out of politeness or obligation
  3. When a person’s words and deeds conflict – you’re better off listening to the non-verbal message sent by the actions.
  4. Pay close attention to the words chosen to express a message. “I’d love to come tonight!” does not mean the exact same thing as, “If it’s important to you then I can come tonight.”
  5. Also be on the lookout for polite statements that conflict with a person’s true wishes. You’re the last to leave a party – does the host really want you to stay for another piece of pie, or is she just offering to be polite?
  6. Pay attention to how others around you respond in certain situations for clues to what you might want to also do. In the party example above, if you’re among the last to leave a party and everyone else declines that pie – then maybe you should as well.
  7. Make note of how other people use personal space to communicate sentiment. Closeness and physical contact might emphasize caring or affection or it might indicate aggression or dominance – proximity speaks volumes, but you still have to interpret its message.
  8. Take a moment at the end of a conversation to reiterate what you took to be its important message. This gives the other person an opportunity to correct you on any misunderstandings before they result in mistaken behaviors1
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Page last updated Dec 22, 2012

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