Ways to slow down the ADHD Fast Brain for better personal interaction
People, in general, think faster than they talk. For all of us, it’s hard to listen, especially if the speaker is a little slower than average in finishing what he has to say.
ADHD adults have even more difficulty being patient while others speak. Because of their Fast Brain, they often get sidetracked in their own thoughts or get very impatient.
Waiting for the other person to finish speaking can be unbearable for some ADHD adults, especially, if the speaker does not seem to understand the nature of the subject or appears to be building a case.
Often, if the non-ADHD adult takes too long to speak and/or says something that the ADHD adult thinks might be critical or a put-down, the ADHD adult interrupts and talks over the speaker, hijacking the conversation, determined to clarify the issue.
Like many other ADHD adults, Dennis had trouble staying focused when others were speaking. He was always very quick to assess the other person’s tone or attitude, whether he was correct or not.
Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria
Gracie was waiting for Dennis in the car. He opened the car door and reached in with a cup of coffee and a banana walnut muffin putting them in the cup holder.
Gracie: “Are you going to eat…”
With lightning speed, Dennis thought Gracie was on his case about eating too many carbs when he was on a carb-restricted diet. He was also thinking that she didn’t have the right to question his snack choice. He instantly got offended and put his words into action stepping on Gracie’s sentence so he didn’t have to listen to what he assumed she was going to say.
Dennis: “What difference does it make to you if I want to eat it? Or maybe I’ll just throw it out the window. If I want to, I’ll eat it.
Gracie: “Did you get more…”
Once again, Dennis didn’t want to hear what he assumed she was going to say so he stepped on her sentence with a raised voice so even if she did say something he couldn’t hear her. By his second response, he was very offended and angry.
Dennis, with his fast brain, jumped to the conclusion that Gracie was going to put him down or give him a hard time over the muffin. So, after talking over her, he totally cut off all communication.
Many ADHD adults, like Dennis, become quickly preoccupied with any perceived criticism. Often, their first instinctive response is to become defensive or angry at a comment that sounds like it could be a criticism or putdown.
Dennis: “I told you I don’t want to talk about it. All you ever want to do is argue. I’m not going to fight with you about it. It’s my muffin and I’ll eat what I want.”
This is an example of Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria, which often leads to extreme emotional anxiety, offensiveness, or emotional pain. An ADHD adult can switch from feeling great and in a good mood to intense sadness, feelings of offense, or anger in a matter of seconds. It is entirely unnecessary because the emotional pain is triggered by only a perceived rejection, criticism, or accusation from the other person.
Another communication problem occurs when it appears the ADHD adult is choosing not to listen, but very often their mind is so busy thinking about what was said or a question asked or some other situation that they can’t think to respond.
Dennis and Gracie were driving down the road, listening to the radio, on their way to look at a second car they wanted to purchase for Gracie.
Gracie: “Could we stop and get a bowl of Chicken soup? It’s so cold and the soup would warm us up?”
When Gracie ask about stopping for chicken soup Dennis did not seem to hear her or he appeared to ignore what she asked. But, instead, his mind was busy.
Because he was so engrossed in his driving, navigating, and thinking about the impending inspection of the car, and possible price negotiations, he was not able to quickly shift his focus to Gracie’s question.
This led to a misinterpretation and hurt feelings on Gracie’s part about not being heard or ignored.
This hyperfocus and inability to quickly refocus often causes extreme anxiety, offense, and emotional pain for the non-ADHD adult, as it did for Gracie because they don’t understand.
Too often, the uncomfortably long time it takes a hyperfocused individual to evaluate and respond to a question or comment or situation can be perceived as rejection and can trigger unnecessary conflict and chaos.
When Gracie asked the question, Dennis had to add the analysis of the question to the list of things he was already processing in his mind. He considered reprioritizing his list to think about Gracie’s request first, but it became too overwhelming. He had about ten things he had to think about before he could answer her question, thus the silence.
Dennis, like many others with ADHD in similar situations, was trying to figure out how to handle the new task created by her question, and still drive safely and efficiently.
Dr. Caroline Leaf, a communication pathologist and cognitive neuroscientist, states that intense negative thoughts and feelings, similar to what both Gracie and Dennis experienced, are actually toxic. They can become physically, emotionally, and spiritually harmful. This is especially true for non-ADHD adults, like Gracie, dealing with an ADHD adult because she didn’t understand why she was getting silence or pushback.
According to Dr. Leaf, thoughts are active, they grow and change affecting every decision, word, action, or physical reaction that occurs. “Every time you have a thought, it is actively changing your brain and your body – for better or for worse.”
“Toxic thoughts are thoughts that trigger negative and anxious emotions, which produce biochemicals that cause the body stress. They are stored in your mind, as well as in the cells in your body.” (Who Switched Off My Brain, Dr. Caroline Leaf)
Renew your mind
God’s Word tells us in Romans 12:2 to “renew our minds.” It doesn’t say, renew your mind if you don’t have ADHD or any other disability. The Word tells us all to renew our minds.
In Dr. Leaf’s book “Who Switched Off My Brain,” she states that the latest scientific research shows that the brain can and does change. Those with ADHD can be encouraged in the fact that they can control their thoughts, which will control their behavior. She reveals how the scientific evidence lines up with God’s Word in that we all can “renew our minds.”
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2, NKJV)
Here are some steps to help all of us, including ADHD adults, begin to renew our minds.
.“Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,” (2 Corinthians 10:5, NKJV)
Step 1: Practice Changing Your Response
“We are destroying arguments and all arrogance” (2 Corinthians 10:5a, NASB)
“We are taking prisoners of every thought, every emotion, and subduing them into obedience to the Anointed One.” (2 Corinthians 10:5c, The Voice)
Many ADHD adults have received so much criticism that they often resort to being offended or angry without asking questions to understand first. Other ADHD adults become passive and don’t respond at all when they don’t understand what is being said. They would rather say nothing than sound stupid.
- The first step to change is “Ask Questions.” Find out what the other person is actually saying instead of assuming the worst. Don’t ask “why questions”. Ask “how”, “what”, “when”, and “where” questions to get added information.
- After clarifying the person’s statement, take a few deep breaths before deciding how to respond.
- Think before you speak (taking every thought and emotion captive). If need be, calm yourself.
- Example #1: Dennis: “I’m not sure I understand what you started to say, could you please clarify so we are on the same page?”
Gracie: “I was wondering what your intentions were when you bought the muffin since you are on a low-carb diet. I was wondering if you planned on sharing it when we got home.”
- Example #2: Dennis takes a deep breath and pauses before responding. Dennis: “The muffin looked so good, and I know you like banana walnut muffins. I got it for you hoping I could have a small bite.”
Step 2: Evaluate the criticism
- So, when someone is critical, instead of launching a verbal attack or argument, acknowledge what the other person said and ask questions to clarify.
- Take several deep breaths, slow your brain down, and analyze the statement to see if there is any truth in it.
- If the statement has some validity, paraphrase what the other person said to make sure you have it correct.
- What can you learn from it?
- If appropriate, say “thank you” and/or give a brief explanation, then move on.
- Do not dwell on the criticism. Learn from it.
Step 3: Inaccurate criticism
- Agree with part of the statement, even if you just say “You could be right,” if possible, rather than getting offended, defensive, or angry.
- In the story above, Dennis got very offended when he thought Gracie was going to tell him that he shouldn’t eat the muffin because of his low-carb diet.
- Example 1: Instead of getting offended, he could have said, “You are right about the diet. I only wanted a small bite. I thought we could share it.”
- Example 2: Dennis could have said, “You’re right. On a low-carb diet, muffins are not allowed. I got this for you with the hope that I could have a small bite.”
- This deflection technique allows you to gracefully brush off the implied judgment or criticism.
However, you choose to respond, remember that it takes practice. You can’t expect to make great changes overnight. The first few times it may feel awkward and it may not be received as you expect. That is part of the learning process. Don’t give up.
If you have a non-ADHD person close to you, as with Dennis and Gracie, ask the non-ADHD person for ideas about how you can work together to change some of the communication habits that are destructive to your relationship. Be open to seriously considering implementing their suggestions without being resentful or sarcastic. They might have an effective workaround you may not have thought of.
Work together for a positive result!!
What other specific protocols do you or your ADHD adult apply to accomplish important tasks?