Self

5 Ways To Avoid Social Regrets When You Have ADHD — & Make The Most Of You Superpower

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lovely young woman with curly hair smiles against a brick wall

Do you ever wish you could go back in time and fix what happened the day before during a social interaction?

So much so, the next day you think about why someone would've said it, wonder if you should've responded differently, wished you'd defended yourself (or someone else) and had a funny-yet-direct response?

Do you ever think about a positive interaction and kick yourself for not appreciating, acknowledging it or being polite enough in response? 

If so, welcome to the world of "social hangovers" with ADHD!

Those of us who struggle with executive function challenges may say too much, over-react, deny involvement, blurt out hurtful comments or speak in a tone that is off-putting.

Since we are often less able to read facial or non-verbal cues, we may over-compliment until the recipient feels awkward, or we stay silent. Often, we either became distracted and missed a critical pieces of a conversation or we think that we are not “smart” enough to add to the conversation.

These situations can lead to many social hangovers. 

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Over the years I’ve developed a framework that not only keeps me organized but also makes socializing feel so much more natural.

Since then, I have introduced this to hundreds of people and they report positive results too.

Just for background, executive function (EF) is the management system of the brain and represents the different processes that work together to produce things like attention, self- management, emotional regulation, self-regulation, organization and working memory. 

The good news is that executive function can be strengthened at any age.

Having one area of weakness does not mean that the other EF areas are also weak. In fact, as a person with ADHD, you do have strengths — tremendous strengths. We all do! You have an ability, gift, talent, etc., that no one else can replicate.

The key is to use this strength to guide you away from having social hangovers.

“Think of this definition of Executive Function: To have a goal; To think about how to achieve that goal; To create an action plan to get to the goal; To self‐regulate our behaviors and emotions to carry out that goal.”

~ Executive Function definition from Michelle Garcia Winner, Social Skills Coach

RELATED: It's OK To Be Happy — Even When Other People Aren't

Whether your goal is to respond to emails, to be more centered, or to pay attention to people’s body language, we need a plan and we need to manage our emotions and behaviors.

This is no easy task, but it is possible if we try, practice and know how our brains work.

In order to read people better we have to start by better reading ourselves — and by not holding ourselves to an unreasonably high standard.

A five-step plan for avoiding 'social hangovers' as a person with ADHD: 

1.  Figure out what you have been missing and “pre-game.”  

Find out what you want! Notice how you feel.

I have learned that what I need as a person w/ ADHD to socialize:

• Hydration

• Sleep

• A familiar face, or I’ll get overwhelmed

• To feel OK; good mood

• To play mental games when there’s too much talking 

• Effort

• Self-talk to be positive 

What I do not want

• Crowds; or I’ll get too stimulated

• Boredom; My brain needs to be fired-up

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2.  Use your strengths

You don’t have any strengths? I hear this often, but I know you do. Here are some strengths that you may not even notice: attention to detail, compassion, bravery, exuberance, deep focus, novel approaches, creativity.

We are often exuberant and very zesty. We tend to crave stimulation, we might be a little too exuberant and say the wrong thing — too loudly!

But we can ultimately learn how to pause, manage what we say, and keep the zest and the fun and the things that make us unique. Use your strengths, what allows you to feel confident and centered. 

RELATED: 6 Common-But-Often-Overlooked Symptoms of ADHD In Adults 

3.  Plan to make micro-connections

Start off small, with actionable steps that don’t require drastic measures. Try for three small connections a day, such as being the first to say hello and chatting with someone after church. 

4. Speak to yourself with compassion

Positive self-talk helps us take a birds-eye view of a situation. Is it really as scary as we think? Are the others really smarter, prettier, funnier, etc. than us? Start a circle of support so you feel less alone.

RELATED: The 5 Best Tips For A Happy Relationship With Someone Who Has ADHD 

5. Build social skills 

Whatever the root cause of the social hangover, we can build social skills, no matter our age. It takes practice and may feel daunting, but every little win, every skill you advance will help you make greater connections. 

There is no one root cause for our social hangover. For some, it’s a self-regulation issue. For others, its anxiety induced and for others it’s an amygdala hijacking! All these come from an EF challenge.

Connection is the core of life. To prevent a social hangover with ADHD, we need to understand our short-comings, set things up to demonstrate our strengths, lessen our weaknesses and be gentle with ourself. Was last night really that awful, or was it just not the right situation with the right mindset?  

RELATED: 9 Easy Little Habits That Make People Stronger And More Resilient 

Caroline Maguire is an author and speaker. She shares ways to help adults and children through social emotional learning and social skills training in her book, coaching sessions, and speaking engagements. 

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This article was originally published at author website. Reprinted with permission from the author.