[This DrP article was first published on Next Evolution Performance]
Did you read Part One of this piece? Then I must tell you the reason I broke it into two is because I’ve learnt to take my own advice. Giving someone time and space to digest, apply and review is more important than getting every single bit of information in. And here goes, for my favourite and most hands-on part of the 3Cs – Communicating.
My #neveragain moment
I remember an evening when I was talking to a very clever coder. He wrote beautiful code. It was as clean as the formula for the Roman pastas.
But he was enraged about how no one appreciated his code. How everyone else’s code was way messier. And his people skills were sorely lacking.
He wasn’t asking for advice, and I was merely a listener in the group of three. So I sat back and watched.
I thought to myself, “Few people know how or where to look for code. Even if they do, few people bother to. What most people want.. is something usable. And someone they can work with”.
And I knew this guy had a history of burning all his bridges.
That was The Moment in my head, I learnt that no matter how great my ideas are, they need to be presented in a way that others understand and connect with.
For someone with ADHD, this means
- being cogent
- speaking at a comprehensible speed
- not jumping straight to the point without building rapport
- not reading the above three, rolling my eyes, and getting oppositionally black-and-white, assuming I’ll be left talking about the weather for 45 minutes.
Cogent, clear, concise
Being cogent is about getting straight to the point. ADHD brains can stare at a cube and then tell you all about an elephant in space, because our brains take us down the most absurd web of rabbit holes ever. Makes for great creativity at times, but crap for conversations.
Because everyone’s brain only has that much capacity.
One practice is to ask yourself “What is the person really saying? And what are my 2 headlines”. With that short pause, you plan your answer.
Pauses don’t make you sound stupid— they make you thoughtful and respectful. And this is akin to being given a design brief for an exhibition- ask yourself what is needed of you (or clarify), and then curate what’s on display. Galleries work because there is white space– they aren’t a Hoarder’s Hellhole.
Not too fast & furious
I tell this story often— if you listen to my brother and I speak, you would have no clue what is going on. It’s three times faster than my fastest public speaking speed.
But it’s still slower than our brains go.
People are shocked.
I’m asked “So how did you get to this speed you’re speaking to us at?”
Simple. I call it ‘Metronome Hands’.
As a child, my piano teacher would set the metronome to a certain beat per minute. It’d regulate my tempo for whatever piece I was playing. Of course I was upset. But she told me not everything has to sound like generals racing through battlefields on horseback. There are funeral marches too. And of course, waltzes.
So I learnt to move my hands to regulate my speed. The rhythmic motion is also linked to bilateral activation, meaning engaging both sides of my brain. This way, I am more composed and in-control.. and also more creative.
And so, the next time you are tempted to blaze through speech, move both hands deliberately in a small circular motion. Let that rhythm carry you forward.
I used to tell everyone my STD was Small Talk Disorder. God, as an introvert I hated it.
As an impatient ADHDer, I detested it with the ultimate passion.
But I read what Ramit Sethi said, that you don’t go to a fancy restaurant and just gobble down your food. You eat your courses slowly. You let them take you through the motions. And as someone who dines infamously well, that got to me.
Surely I have every bit of patience as my server slowly brushes off crumbs and invisible what-nots from my table cloth, with a gilded crumb brush. I know it’s part of it. I sit at long drawn-out delicious dinners happily. And I conduct business over food.
If I can make bread over breaking bread, I sure as hell can learn to build rapport.
Also, as a trainee psychologist, I’d better learn how to.
I learnt that jumping straight to the point can be abrupt. And intrusive. That when people connect, it is easy to get your point through. Also you’d have had more time to refine your spiel. And that just because in the UK, all small talk revolves around “How did you get here?” and “Awful weather, isn’t it?”, didn’t mean I had to subscribe to that.
I learnt to make small talk interesting.
- What’s the best thing that happened to you today?
- Tell me what are you really here for?
- How would your best friend introduce you to a stranger?
Of course, you can evolve it to become fascinating. See Proust’s Questionnaire, The 21 Questions, and Alexandra Franzen’s 100 Questions To Spark Conversation.
- If you could sit down with your 13-year old self, what would you tell them?
- If you could choose your life obstacles, would you keep the ones you have?
- If you could invite anyone living or dead to a dinner party, which three guests would you invite? And why?
Not boring at all. Totally engaging to your ADHD brain and someone else’s non-ADHD brain!
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