A very dear friend who has ADHD burst into tears the other day while we were chatting. "Why do I fight with everybody?When I look back on my life, it has been filled with conflict", she wept.
Many ADDers can identify with her anguish. We destroy personal and work relationships with our volatile personalities. It is as though we deliberately go into a self destruct mode but don't know how to stop.
So why are we so volatile? My AHAA light bulb moment came during one of my Living ADDventure® ADHD Coaching sessions. At the core of the problem is my visual, movie making mind; a typical ADHD characteristic.
Somebody says or does something that our supersensitive souls do not like. It is quite possible that we may not have heard correctly or we don't understand the context; it becomes instantly personal! When our self esteem is low, everything becomes personal.
We make a snap judgement based on our own personal belief systems or some past experience and either impulsively explode or equally dangerous, brood and brood and brood.
Our movie making minds go into overdrive replaying the incident over and over until fact and fiction become blurred. Eventually we get worked up into such a state that we need to take action. The 3am vitriolic e-mail, storming into the office and forcing a showdown or suddenly launching into an attack on your spouse or family bringing up every past hurt real or imagined.
The targets of our anger are often bewildered as they have no clue there is anything amiss. Like a dog with a bone we cannot let go.
How Can We Change This Cycle?
We first need to accept that as ADDers we:
- Are supersensitive and emotional.
- Are self absorbed - we see the world in terms of ourselves and judge others by our own belief systems.
- Are Impulsive.
- Are frequently people pleasers due to our low self esteem and then get resentful.
- Don't listen properly and misread body language
- Think in pictures which is a great asset but also a potential enemy.
- The combination of these traits makes us human time bombs ...... but we can change.
We Cannot Change Others - We Can Only Change Ourselves
Being self absorbed we believe that our way is the only way. A big lesson I had to learn was to examine each of my belief systems and ask myself the following questions:
- Growing up, have I blindly accepted what my parents and teachers have told me?
- Why should my religious or moral beliefs be any better or worse than someone else who has a different religion or different set of values?
- What gives me the right to judge others?
- Why should my way of doing something automatically be the only way?
As I worked on this area of my life I became aware of just how dogmatic and unyielding I was. Horror of horrors, I was not always right.
Learn to listen
I also realised that I had not always listened properly and got the wrong end of the stick and drew incorrect conclusions. My mind would be so busy on my own stuff that I did not pay attention to what had been said, and more importantly HOW other people were saying things.
Perhaps they were having a bad day and letting off steam and their comments were not directed at me personally.
We need to take our attention away from ourselves and focus on the other person paying more attention to their words and body language.
Use our mouths less and our ears more.
Repeat what we think we have heard to confirm our understanding. If we don't agree with their opinion ask the person to explain why they feel that way and don't immediately dismiss their viewpoint.
They just might be right!
Take a timeout
If you can't reach consensus and you feel yourself getting angry, request a timeout so that you can actively think about what has been said in a rational manner. Write down your thoughts and don't just brood in your head. Writing brings reality.
- Why did s/he make the comment or suggest an alternative way of doing something?
- Does it have merit?
- Are they really being mean or deliberately provoking you?
- Are you taking your anger out on the wrong person because they are a soft target and you are afraid of confronting the person who is at the root of the problem?
- Have your hormones gone into overdrive and made you supersensitive?
- Most importantly - DOES IT REALLY MATTER?
Does it Matter?
Do you have to win every time?
Is it worth destroying a friendship, working relationship or marriage just because you don't agree on everything?
Resolving the Conflict
Once you have been through the above you can make a decision that is right for you.
1. If you were wrong, apologise and move on.
2. If you believe you have been wronged, write down why you think this is the case and how you would like to see the relationship working in the future.
3. Use "I" messages to explain to the person your opinion and hopefully you can resolve the situation.
4. Obviously you won't always have a positive outcome and you will not get on with everyone you meet or work with. Sometimes you have to agree to disagree.
5. If the relationship has turned toxic you have the choice to walk away and MOVE ON! Cut the movie and throw it in the trash can.
I have found it much easier to be happy rather than fight to the death to be right.
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