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Do People with ADHD Have a Hard Time Listening?
When we were younger, we learned that there are two 2️⃣ important key factors to having effective communication. There will always be one who talks and the other one that listens. And to have a smooth flow of conversation, these elements should be in harmony with each other. But how can Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder affect our speaking and listening skills?
Some people with ADHD sometimes find it hard to listen to anyone they are conversing with 👂. Usually, listening problems occur when a person is struggling too much with their ADHD symptoms and cannot manage the inattentive traits they tend to experience. As we are prone to have difficulties paying attention, others may feel like they are disregarded and not taken seriously. The trouble with not being able to give our full attention to our friends, colleagues, or family may result in much more severe problems we don't want to happen 😞.
When we are easily distracted or having a zone-out session, our ADHD brains start to wander elsewhere and disregard the external noises during the moment. These instances might affect our listening skills. We might hear what the other person is talking about, but the problem may be how we process this information and turn it into a thought that makes sense.
ADHD Hearing vs Listening Skills
These two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but we know that they have different meanings. We can think of hearing as the process of receiving sound 🔕, while listening is more about comprehending or understanding what we just heard. Someone might hear all the words but, more often than not, fail to absorb the message of the conversation.
Let's take me as an example.
While I was giving my undivided attention to the chores in front of me, my mother suddenly rushed in and interrupted to tell me that I needed to take out the trash in the kitchen after 🚮. I responded with a nod and carried on to the tasks that I was doing. She specifically told me that the bin on the left (or right?) must be out before noon because the trash collector passes by around that time. In contrast, the other one can stay in until tomorrow morning.
In this scenario, I can say that I heard what my mother said but failed to listen to her instructions carefully. As a result, after finishing the tasks, I took out both trash bins because I couldn’t remember which one should be out! My action didn’t have a bad outcome, but you can imagine that had the scenario been about work or school, consequences may result from inability to absorb details 😢
I felt terrible then because I didn't intend to disregard her instructions. It's just that I couldn't get a hold of what she said and gave my full attention.
The Culprit Behind Our Listening Problems
You may have heard that to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder as an adult, one of the key points is that ADHD symptoms should be experienced before age 12. The symptoms should have greatly affected several areas of our lives, including school, work, and social life.
Of course, these symptoms can have a huge impact if they affect our listening skills 👂.
Many children with ADHD find it hard to give their complete focus and attention to something they aren't interested in. Unlike adults, a child's attention span is shorter, and they quickly get bored with things that don't manage to keep their interest 🧒. The thing is, at this stage their listening skills should be developed thoroughly. But because they can't focus, they might find it hard to develop the skills to listen and comprehend. It may then reflect on their adulthood years when they find it difficult to cope with work or socialize appropriately with other people.
In some adults with ADHD, listening to conversations and getting all the required information can be more challenging. Aside from the ADHD struggle to maintain focus and concentration, we also tend to have issues with our working memory, hyperactive brain, and an impulsive urge to interrupt conversations. When all mixed up, these can create chaos in listening skills and may make us have difficulty processing information 😭.
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Problems that May Arise From Struggles to Listen
To be a better listener and effectively handle a conversation, we should first acknowledge that there are instances when we are not good listeners. This way, we can create better strategies by focusing on the feedback that other people may have for us.
Relationship Struggles 💔
You may often hear that communication is the key in having a successful relationship. It doesn't only apply to romantic relationships, but to every personal relationship you have with the people around you. When adults with ADHD have difficulty listening to the person talking, the trouble and frustration on the receiving end will begin to grow.
It can be challenging for the person you are talking to if they feel like their words are falling on deaf ears. If this happens often, it will not just strain your relationship with them but may also make them think they are neglected and unimportant.
Work-Related Struggles 🧑💼
In any given task, following instructions that are provided to you by your superior is essential. But most people diagnosed with ADHD tend to have difficulties processing them. When assigned to a big project, there will be a time that we need to decide which options to take. But when we miss out on the critical points given, our chance of choosing the right track for the project may be compromised.
Aside from that, there will also be times when we need to collaborate with other people to achieve a goal 👫. However, if we can't seem to retain the instructions or even the gist of what other people are saying, it might make working on the said project more difficult than it should be. People may also get confused as to how they should respond to incomplete information, and this can put a strain on teamwork.
Non-Stop Talk Attitude 🦜
We might not notice it, but there are also times when we take the spotlight away from someone who needs to share their thoughts in a conversation or speak their heart out because of frustration. We tend to block off rants and any uninteresting talk and proceed to focus more on ourselves. Not only have we not given our full attention and listened to the other person, but we have also taken away their chance to talk.
When this often happens, you'll hear some feedback about your behavior and how it made the other person feel. When we interrupt them from speaking just to put ourselves first, it may reflect that we aren't interested in what they say or think their thoughts are not as important as ours.
How to Improve and Practice Listening Cohesively?
Have you ever experienced watching a movie 🎞️ and suddenly losing focus and starting to drift off to dreamland? That's exactly what happened to me a few weeks back. Everyone was cheering and happy with a particular scene in the movie. I snapped back into reality and asked myself what had just happened. I missed the most important scene and the main points leading to the film's climax 😭. Even worse, I kept asking my friend what had happened, and she was getting annoyed at me. She could not focus well on the movie, and I was part of why she didn't enjoy the cinema.
Back then, I didn't know what to do in those situations where I had to rely on my listening skills. After a bit of research on my ADHD diagnosis, I found out that there are certain things we can do to improve our listening skills and prevent further communication problems from occurring.
Here are some of the things that may help you become a good listener:
- Practice listening to something that interests you. You can start with songs 🎵 from your favorite music icons or movies you are excited to watch.
- When in a conversation, do not just wait for your turn to speak; instead, hear the person out and respond accordingly to what they are saying 👌. Take turns telling everything you need to, and don't rush. To do this, you must listen carefully to their words and observe non-verbal cues.
- Learning to read and understand body language, gestures, voice modulation, and emotions 🙂 can also help you be a better listener. Sometimes, adults with ADHD are visual thinkers and may quickly get the context of other people's conversations.
- When receiving instructions, it is best to write down notes on a piece of paper 📒 or record it on your smartphone so that you can quickly go back and forth to them whenever you need to. You can also ask questions if some things are not clear to you. Taking notes can also help you focus more on the other person's words.
- If you are distracted and cannot listen well to what the other person is talking about, politely tell them that you are doing an important task and cannot handle another thing at the moment. You can ask them to come back later or offer to call 🤙them instead so that you can have a chance to focus on what they need to say.
- Try not to interrupt conversations and wait for your turn to speak. If you need to say something, raise your hand or use any non-verbal cues ✋ to let the other person know that you want to add to the discussion.
Listening is an essential skill we need to develop appropriately to create and maintain healthy relationships with the people around us. It is also a vital and integral tool in achieving success not just in our personal lives but also in our careers. We cannot just always respond with words like "uh-huh" or nod every time someone is trying to explain something to us. We need to be better listeners to have a good flow of communication and avoid misunderstandings ❤️.
When these things affect our entire lives daily and focusing on things that matter is a struggle for us, talk to your mental health doctor 👩⚕️ to overcome the challenge of listening and create strategies for addressing these difficulties.
ADHD and Listening Problems: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Do people with ADHD have poor listening skills?
To say that people with ADHD have poor listening skills is inaccurate as ADHD affects people differently and even people with no neurodivergent condition may encounter listening problems. It’s just that some ADHD symptoms affect how they listen to and process information. For instance, being easily distracted can affect how we absorb details. Moreover, with practice and guidance, adults with ADHD can be very good communicators.
Why is it important to improve listening skills?
It is important to improve listening skills because they are integral not only for personal and professional success, but also in relationships.
What can be done to improve one’s listening skills?
The first step is to accept that there are issues when it comes to listening. Next is to identify the problem areas and think of strategies to overcome them. Talking to a healthcare professional will most definitely help.