Your best friend just came back from Brazil and is eager to share with you all the sights and sounds she encountered on her 10-day trip. She calls you and begins to unwrap all the wonderful experiences she had, like tiny gifts to share, excited to pull you in to her recent adventure.
You’re happy for her, glad she had a fabulous vacation and you try to hear every word she says, from the flight in over the jungle treetops, to the exotic side trips, to the luscious meals she had in this foreign place you know you’ll never get to experience. But something strange happens and it happens often:
After 5 minutes, your attention span flies right out the window- straight to the pretty blue and white bird that’s singing right to you. You catch a word or two, then notice the click click zzzt of the refrigerator in the kitchen. You try and will yourself back in the conversation but before you know it, you’re remembering your clothes sitting in the dryer from 3 hours ago, composing an email in your head…and more.
As much as you want to hear your friend’s story, you are unable to stay connected. What can you do?
ADHD isn’t about a deficit in attention– it’s about having control of your attention. It’s roping it in so you can hear your child’s story about school that day. It’s listening to your partner share a funny story heard at the office. It’s sharing the excitement of your mom’s great find at an antique store. But try as you might, these daily verbal interactions might as well be as invisible as the sound waves themselves.
How to Stay Connected in a Conversation
Here are some ideas to help keep your attention during a conversation
- Remove obvious distractions when you’re on the phone (turn off the TV, take care of minor chores, etc.). Tell your caller you’ll get back to him as soon as you’ve done that, as you want to be able to concentrate on the conversation.
- Keep a notepad near the phone and take notes! Just like in school, writing down major points will help you stay connected. Doodling also helps.
- Make sure the conversation is two-sided. Don’t let your caller take over. If that is difficult, ask questions to get more information- that will help you to stay curious.
- For in-person conversations, meet at places that are quiet so you don’t get too distracted. Find a cozy corner in a quiet restaurant; position yourself so you’re not looking out the window or into the larger area of the room.
- Keep your eyes on the mouth. When we utilize more than one of our senses, we pay better attention. Listening while looking at the person’s mouth helps!
- Repeat in your head what you are hearing. That helps to “hook” you in.
7. Pretend you will be quizzed later.
How about you? What helps you to stay connected when your mind wanders while chatting with someone? Share your thoughts and ideas in the Comment section below.