Living with AD/HD Spontaneity – Impulse Control Strategies
By Barbara McRae, MCC
I bet you can think of many times when you enjoyed being spontaneous in social situations. As AD/HDers, our unique way of looking at the world and our often witty remarks can create a winning first impression.
And then there are the other not so great times… when you wish you could inconspicuously suck your words back in your mouth!
Impulsive speech can lead to highly embarrassing situations. No doubt some examples are already popping up in your mind! I clearly remember being introduced to a powerful woman in an office setting. Looking at her, I wanted to be congratulatory by asking when her baby was due!
Lucky for me, she chatted about something that hardly required my full attention, giving my whirlwind mind some time to work through my options. The extra minute or two saved me from sticking my foot in my mouth, commenting on a non-existent pregnancy! It was a close call that I’ll likely never forget!
To avoid saying or doing “inappropriate” things in social settings, it pays to know your triggers. In the situation just described, I had been tempted to prematurely explore a risky topic. Giving in to our impulses can take many forms. For a coaching client of mine, it’s getting impatient when swift action isn’t possible. Other examples are:
… Being surprised by a change of plans
… Feeling misunderstood
… Engaging in negative thinking
… Receiving critical feedback.
Find out which triggers get in your way by keeping a list of your top five. Once you’ve identified them, it’s time to create and mentally rehearse better responses while you’re in a calmer frame of mind.
Impulse Control Strategies
The problem with being spontaneous is that you’re prone to saying the first thing that occurs to you. Typically, it takes thinking about several possible responses before you can select the BEST option.
Here is a 3-step approach that can save you from, or at least decrease, your impulse control challenges.
… Delay responding: press your inner pause button.
… Hold back until you’ve identified three responses.
… Speak after you’ve selected the best response.
Know that once triggered, your emotional response will be active for about one minute; that’s assuming no other triggers follow!
Obviously, you won’t be doing your best thinking unless you interrupt your emotional response. The fastest way to do that is physically, not mentally. That’s way counting to ten doesn’t work!
The solution is to create “delay tactics,” in advance. Examples are:
<> Stand up, if you’ve been sitting; or, sit, if you’ve been standing
<> Reach for a bottle of water and slowly drink from it
<> Get a pen from your desk or case
<> Refill your coffee cup
<> Pay attention to your breath as you physically oxygenate, (deliberately inhaling and exhaling)
In each case, you’ll want to focus on what you are doing physically instead of responding!
Give yourself several options to fit various situations, i.e. when you’re conversing with someone face-to-face, on the phone, or online. Then, practice! Start with an easier situation or person first. Make sure you keep from saying anything until a minute has passed. Depending upon how emotional you’re feeling you might need more time.
Oh, one more thing. When you’re emailing, you’ll be tempted to hit the send button right away. Don’t! Save your responses in your draft folder overnight. Take a fresh look at it in the morning. You’ll be glad you did!
~ Barbara McRae, MCC
20-Somethings ADHD Expert, Campus Calm™
© Barbara McRae