ADHD: Impulsiveness, Distractability, Poor Social Judgement, Blurting Out
Impulsivness is one of the defining criteria for ADHD. Products of ADHD impulsivity include both distractability – I get a distraction and I impulsively follow it, off task – and also blurting out. I get a thought and impulsively say it, sometimes even when I know better, but the impulse fires a microsecond before the alarm bell. OK, let’s be honest. Sometimes the alarm bell sounds soon enough and I go ahead and say it anyway.
When my wife kicks me under the table, that’s an external warning signal, but often I go ahead anyway, although sometimes I ask her to stop kicking me. She doesn’t like this. But sometimes I pause and decide she’s probably right and I change the subject. Sometimes.
I’m having trouble thinking of a good recent example, but here’s an old one:
We were dining with good friends, very nice people, although bigotted (an oxymoron? People can’t help where they were born?). They started in on some racist stuff and I interrupted them to deliver an educational lecture on the topic. My wife kept kicking me but I just kept going. They got very quiet and when I finished they started a different topic, and my wife stopped kicking me. (I am aware that people’s opinions are not affected by facts, but they had stated theirs, and I couldn’t just let it stand. Could I?)
You know, that’s not a good example of blurting out, although I didn’t stop to consider before I started the lecture. But I would do it again.
Anyway, I just asked my wife and although she agrees I blurt out all the time, she couldn’t think of an example either. Maybe it’s not a bad as I think? Maybe I can post an example next time. She does point out that sometimes I post things that she thinks would go better unposted. Did I impulsively push the publish button or is this an example of poor judgement, which I also have?
I don’t really have a strategy for this.
‘Stop and think before you speak?’ Seems like that’s like saying, “Just try harder.” Could I really make that a habit, or is it that if I could do that, I wouldn’t have ADHD?
‘Stop talking when I’m getting kicked?’ But sometimes in my opinion, it’s not inappropriate. Still, that might be a good strategy, percentage wise.
‘Keep your mouth shut?’ I do this a lot, and surely it keeps me out of a lot of trouble, but sometimes I need to speak. Can I speak without blurting out? Is it like all or nothing?
intelligent Oh, did I say something wrong?
Blurting out, I said it before.
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Not all ADHD impulses are bad ones, as Laura said. However, it is true there are certain situations, like conversations at work (bosses or clients, co-workers, etc.) or formal conversations where blurting can be an issue. Sadly, I know this from experience. I have a habit of ‘keeping talking’ when the other person is trying to get a word in, and I’ve been yelled at with words like ‘just let me finish’ (so I know I’ve just encroached on the other person’s territory in a way). I find the most helpful strategy is to let go of what I’m thinking of saying… to let go of my ego, and just focus solely on the other person while my lips stay touching (so I know my mouth remains closed). When they pause and raise their eyebrows, I take that as my cue to speak, which I try and do in sound bites like a news anchor would. I’m learning ‘less words’ contribute to ‘more meaning’.
(I thought I had replied, but apparently something went wrong, so here it goes again)
Great post! I think you were right in that situation with your friends, Doug. If they’re not sensible enough to take care how they speak about certain things in front of you – despite knowing your contrary views – then you shouldn’t stay quiet. I don’t think you said anything offensive, so I don’t see the problem.
I think my strategy is, when I start getting riled up, I say “look, we’re gonna see eye-to-eye on this, so let’s please change the subject”. It takes quite a lot of effort, especially because the person you’re arguing with will often be obnoxious to the point of getting the last word (although technically, they already did, since my remark hardly counts as an argument) and you have to take the high road. Other strategy is saying “I don’t see it like that and I’m done talking.” and just shrug and say “ok” or repeat “I said I’m done.” if the other person keeps pecking at it.
Also, a question: can you link me to your blog post on how to deal with conspiracy theorists? My sis is having trouble with one of those and I wanted to share your insight with her. But even googling your name and “conspiracy theory”, I get the wrong post (the one where you tell us you were reading a book on the subject).
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Ram- great to hear from you again. hope all is well.
thank you for the support. I fear if we don’t say something it looks like agreement. Then they think there are more people with their view than threre are. I am proud that I once kicked a guest out of our house when he wouldn’t stop spouting his crap.
conspiracy theory – oh my. i will try to find it. also should have a new post that mentions it soon. we need to remember that facts and logic have no influence in these kinds of situations.
best wishes and always thank you for commenting
ram- did you type conspiracy into the search box over on the right of the post? I think that’s all there is.
I had indeed not used that box! It’s that ADHD talent of notice what no one else does and then not being able to see the forest for the trees on occasion.
I also found the post, thanks! As it turns out, it was a post you made with a reply to me – which is probably why I had such a vivid memory of such a post.
And thanks, all is well. I sometimes don’t reply because I don’t want to blurt out and opinionate about everything 😉
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i always appreciate your blurting out and opinionating. it adds to the site
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I think you did the right thing. I think you speaking up is an ADHD positive. Impulsivity is not a bad thing when ones impulses are good. When a person has ADHD and is empathic we are attentive to things like meanness and since people with ADHD are not the best at prioritizing maybe this can also be good as we are more likely to stand up to authority even if it might harm us later.
So maybe the trick is in training our conscious and ultimately hopefully our unconscious so that our impulses are alligned with good most of the time. I think with ADHD having good thoughts and kind thoughts is more important because we stink at hiding our true thoughts and feelings.
thank you for your great and kind comment. A very different viewpoint.