Adults With ADHD Can Improve Listening Skills

These tips can improve listening skills and relationships

Friends talking
Nick David/Taxi/Getty Images

When you lose focus during conversations, you miss important details and information being communicated to you. Just as importantly, you also give others the impression that you don’t care about and are uninterested in what they are saying. This can create problems at work or school, and hurt feelings within social relationships. Becoming more aware of how your ADHD symptoms affect your interactions and learning new patterns of interacting with others can go a long way in healing, developing, and maintaining work relationships and friendships.

Below are some tips for improving concentration in conversations.

How to Stay Focused During Conversations

  1. If your mind begins to drift during a conversation, it is perfectly fine to ask your friend/partner to repeat what was just said. Not only do you get to hear what was said, but you also communicate to your partner that what he or she says is important to you.
  2. Nod your head, maintain eye contact, and use body language to show that you are attending to what is being said. This physical and active reinforcement may help anchor your attention. Some people have even found that movement, like flexing their toes in their shoes or rolling a tactile object in their hands, helps them maintain their focus a little more easily.
  3. As your friend or partner is talking to you, try to paraphrase their ideas during the conversation. This keeps you active and involved and helps ensure that you are hearing and understanding the important points being made. You can even ask your friend or partner to practice this with you, as it may take a little time for this to feel natural.
  1. Let your friend or partner know if the environment is just too distracting (or too quiet) for you to focus. If you are in a crowded restaurant and you can’t keep your attention on what someone is saying, move to a more quiet table. Know what works best for you, and don’t be afraid to politely let your friend or partner know.
  1. Talk with your friend/partner ahead of time and develop a signal or sign you can use if you begin to feel overloaded. This way, you can bow out of conversations in a polite and positive way that won’t create hurt feelings. You may even want to set time limits on some conversations. If there is resolution that needs to be reached on the topic, plan a later time to re-address and properly deal with the issue.

    Read more about Relationships and Adult ADD/ADHD.

    Learn additional tips for improving relationships if you have difficulty:
    Saying Things Without Thinking Through Consequences
    Tips for Better Anger Control

    Additional Reading:


    Michael T. Bell. You, Your Relationship and Your ADD. New Harbinger Publications. 2002.

    Michael T. Bell. Dealing with the Impact of AD/HD on Marriage. Attention Magazine. April 2003.

    Nancy A. Ratey. The Disorganized Mind. St. Martin’s Press. New York. 2008.