It happens all the time: we start a conversation with someone (on the phone or in person), and quickly we realize that they aren’t really listening. Nine times out of ten, this happens because we’ve started talking before making sure that the other person was engaged in conversation or before considering if this is a good time for them.
We go through life with our own agenda, and sometimes, we forget to make sure other people are ready to receive the information we want to share with them. This is particularly a challenge for individuals who have ADHD because transitions are difficult. Even if they have picked up the phone and said hello, or are looking directly at you, it’s entirely possible that they are “still somewhere else.”
How to Get An ADHDer's (or Anyone's!) Attention
Making sure another person is present before you start talking is actually your responsibility – that is, if you want to have positive results. The best thing to do is simply “check-in.” Before starting into a conversation, ask something like, “can I interrupt you?” or, “got a minute?” or the ever-valuable, “is this a good time to talk?” This is especially important when it comes to phone calls since we don’t have the visual cues to see what we may be interrupting.
Whenever I call upon anyone, I always try to start with one of those questions, especially “Is this a good time?” or “Are you in the middle of something?” And it’s actually a great way to get someone’s full attention.
We live in an interruption-driven world that is distracting, even for people who don’t have ADHD. Our phones are so ever-present that we often don’t even think before answering them. And while maybe we shouldn’t answer if we are otherwise engaged, in today’s world, I think it’s fair to assume that people are always in the middle of something.
"Is This a Good Time?"
So before you start talking, directing, or making a request – get someone’s attention by asking a simple question that forces them to stop what they’re doing long enough to either give you their attention or find a better time.