Getting Along With the Group
by Michele Novotni, Ph.D.
At business meetings, Sarah feels like she doesn’t fit in. She struggles to keep track of the conversations, has difficulty blocking out unwanted sounds, participates rarely, and ends up feeling overwhelmed and unsure of what was said.
Sam, on the other hand, considers himself very social. He loves to talk to his group and always has a story to tell. Unfortunately, he often misses the cues that tell him not to dominate the discussion.
Whether you have inattentive AD/HD, like Sarah, or hyperactive AD/HD, like Sam, group interaction can be a challenge. There are different rules and expectations for different types of groups, so it is important to understand what the requirements are and to prepare accordingly. But by sticking to some simple strategies, you can stay on track throughout your meetings and conduct yourself with grace in social settings.
People with AD/HD thrive on brainstorming and collaboration in the workplace. But remember that the primary purpose of working as a group is to accomplish a task efficiently.
- Know the expectations concerning your specific role as well as the overall goals and deadlines for the project at hand.
- Stay within the time frame for the group meeting. Avoid side conversations or off-task comments. Try a timer to help all of the members stay on track.
- Hold meetings in a relatively quiet environment to limit distractions. A lunch meeting in a noisy restaurant will make it hard to concentrate.
- Tape-record the meeting if you feel you’ll have trouble remembering what was said. If you have difficulty staying on task, take notes as well to help keep you focused.
- Balance your participation with the other members. Select an effective member of the group as a model and use that person’s level of participation as a gauge to determine whether you’re speaking too much or too little.
You’ll get the best support from your group if you can find the middle ground between talking and listening.
- Know the structure of your group and save chatter for the right time. Some groups schedule casual social periods along with group sharing, while others provide opportunities to mingle only before and after the official meeting.
- Balance your personal disclosure. Observe silently for a meeting or two before jumping in. Sharing too much makes group members feel uncomfortable, whereas sharing too little makes you seem standoffish. Take your cues from others to find the right balance.
- Be respectful and supportive. Aim for a three-to-one ratio—three comments in response to others for every personal comment you make.
Many of the support-group tips apply here as well.
- Enlist a friend to give you subtle cues (hand movements, eye contact, or gentle foot taps) to regulate your degree of participation. Because there are fewer constraints on behavior in social settings, this will help you stay with a conversation or avoid chattering away.
- Be mindful of time. Social groups, like more formal groups, are often planned, though they are more likely to stray from a time frame. Follow the lead of others and leave when the majority of participants leave.
Remember, if you have prepared yourself to meet the expectations of the group, you’ll be more likely to enjoy yourself.
Michele Novotni, Ph.D., is a psychologist and coach in private practice in Wayne, Pennsylvania, and the author of several bestselling books on adult AD/HD.
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