How can I improve my listening skills if I have adult ADD?

The following are some quick tricks to help you listen to the words of others if you have attention deficit disorder (ADD), even when you feel like bouncing off the walls.
  • Breathe: If deep breathing can get a woman through giving birth, it can get you through droned instructions. Keep your mind focused on the words of the other person while deliberately taking slow breaths. If you want, you can use a specific breathing pattern, such as a four-second inhale through your nose followed by a four-second exhale through your mouth. This will calm you down, at the same time increasing your ability to focus.
  • Connect Drifting Thoughts to Actual Content: Find ways to connect your mental distractions to what the person is actually saying. This can be fun, as many times it takes creativity to find connections between the two streams of incoming information. Interestingly, this is a central strategy used by therapists to understand clients at a deeper level.
  • Be a Roving Reporter: Pretend that you're an investigative journalist -- imagine you'll have to go back and write a story on what the person is telling you. This will help focus your attention on details and keep your mind occupied. Like a reporter, get the information you need by asking who, what, when, where, and why.
  • Put Emotions on a Shelf: When you can't listen because you're distracted by your sensitivity to the other person's emotions or your own intense emotion, imagine putting this emotion temporarily on a high shelf. Tell yourself that you can return to this intruding emotion after you have gathered the information you need.
  • Feel Sorry for the Other Person: Gain the motivation to listen to people who irritate you by feeling sorry for them. If you're frustrated by how slowly people talk, how they repeat information you already understand, or how overly constrained and uptight they are, feel sorry for them that they're highly stressed and consumed by work demands.
  • Repeat Words Back: Challenge yourself to find key phrases or words to repeat back to the person talking. Active listening like this requires you to paraphrase what the other has already said. For example, "You were really frustrated when Sheila didn't come through for you." This is another task that can change a situation's context, forcing you to listen to the actual words spoken.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.