If you are a partner or friend of a woman with ADHD, thanks for taking the time to check out this article. We invite you to check out these ten tips that can help you understand her actions and strengthen your relationship.
TOP TEN TIPS FOR LOVING ADHD WOMEN
By Dr. Lara Honos-Webb
1. Give positive feedback
Many ADHD women feel ashamed of a track record of not being able to do what comes easily to others. Sometimes simple tasks such as packing luggage for a trip, doing laundry, or preparing meals are major challenges for women who are disorganized and easily distracted. Go out of your way to note positive contributions even if it’s as simple as “thanks for offering to drive” or “thanks for helping with the dishes”. Send an encouraging email or text, leave a voice message, you cannot overdo this!
2. Understand her need for freedom
“Reactance” is the human tendency to feel threatened when someone tries to limit our freedom. When we feel someone is trying to control us, we may be driven to preserve our freedom by being downright defiant. Every human is driven by reactance but for those with ADD it is a driving personality trait. Working with this can be as simple as saying “I notice you are still on your phone” (no effort to control) instead of “How many times do I have to tell you to get off your phone?” There is a whole art and science to using persuasion rather than directives, the key is to shift to the person’s own motivation for what you are asking.
3. “That’s an interesting perspective” – JUST SAY IT.
ADHD symptoms include “not paying attention to details”, talking excessively, blurting out answers, daydreaming. All of these can lead to very original at times not well thought out strong opinions. You will be tempted to say “are you done yet?” or point out how far-out these ideas might be. Try this instead: “is there more?” and “That’s an interesting perspective.”
4. When offering feedback that is corrective, be gentle and reinforce the positive
If your friend or partner has ADHD that does not mean you have to sidestep issues or avoid them. ADHD often means a person is sensitive to criticism so use gentle language and not language which demeans or shames. Remember she is likely to be tough on herself and often fearful of making an embarrassing choice. But if we are friends with someone with adult ADHD, we also encourage her to be the best person possible and above all, we assure her of our love. For example, “I know that you do not mean any harm. I also know you and where your heart is. But I also would be disappointed if you _______ (fill in the blank) and found others judging you without knowing who you are.”
5. Express emotions
Difficulty listening is a core symptom of ADHD and you can address this by being more emotionally engaged and engaging. For many ADHD women it can be helpful to use more feeling centered-language and to show clearer emotion. She might requires higher facial affect and clearer signals. She may respond to language which expresses emotion, and appreciate it when you tell her how you feel instead of what you think. Simple things like smiling more and nodding to show affirmation can go a long way. You can punctuate conversation by inserting interesting anecdotes and share your feelings in relation to them, instead of just presenting facts and allowing her to draw conclusions. Tone is important. Low facial affect and the appearance of being “stoic” can makes her feel you are bored or uninterested when in fact, you may be concentrating and listening closely.
6. Show vulnerability
Another way to be more engaging is to use authentic self-revelation. This can mean sharing your fears and concerns without asking for a problem solution. It can also mean sharing what you are excited about, what you are happy about and what is making you feel secure. Many ADHD women are highly empathic and find vulnerability to be engaging.
7. Understand Time Blindness & DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY
When planning an activity, (e.g. a dinner), it is good to do so via email so that it allows the person to respond in his/her own time and react accordingly without the pressure of having to respond to something in person. They also have it in writing and can check their phone for your email if needed. Many partners have found it works best to invite ahead of time but probably not too far in advance. The key here is to not take time blindness such as showing up late or forgetting appointments personally, it is a core dysfunction for women with ADHD.
8. Take the lead on organizing activities
A woman with ADHD may not organize activities so providing “scaffolding” or helpful prompts can be helpful. You can ask ‘What would you like to eat?’ and allow her to make suggestions, but offer to pick the place if she feels the pressure to make an on the spot decision. Again don’t take a lack of organized planning personally as a lack of interest.
9. Try new things together
Pick new places to eat or new recreational activities to offer stimulation because boredom can set in quickly.
10. Pick environments that are easier for her to pay attention to you
It can be hard to balance the need for stimulation with the need to be free of too many distractions to pay attention. As an example, you can pick a new place to eat, but ask for a table that is quieter or out of the way. Walking, exercise and time in nature can increase attention for anyone, so these activities can be ideal.
What strategies have you used to strengthen your relationships with your ADHD friend or partner? For women with ADHD, what other tips would you add? Feel free to share in the comments section below.
Dr. Lara Honos-Webb PhD is a clinical psychologist, worldwide ADHD expert, and author of The Gift of ADHD, The Gift of ADHD Activity Book, The Gift of Adult ADD and The ADHD Workbook for Teens. She champions a revolutionary approach to ADHD, that focuses on leveraging our gifts, and transforming our “symptoms” into strengths. Learn more about her work at www.addisagift.com