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  • Writer's pictureEliza

ADHD and Listening

I may or may not have mentioned that my husband has ADHD. It is the inattentive variety which I understand as a very busy brain with multiple tabs open and music playing from each one. Constantly.

I will never fully understand what life is like for him, in the same way I do not know what life is really like for anyone. Some days I doubt I even know for my own life! In which case, I only have one option...

To listen.

Listening is a skill I do not have in abundance. My brain guess what people are going to say, using a combination of lived experience, patterns of conversation, cultural norms e.t.c. All triangulated so that when someone begins a sentence, I often think I know how it ends. All this to say...the time I spend listening is about a millisecond before I am building an answer in my head ready to respond.

Being married to someone whose brain works very differently from my own and my more usual interactions has led to some real mis-communications. I listen for a millisecond, ready my reply, and the sentence ends very differently to how I expect. Unfortunately by that point I am already spouting my response before realisation kicks in.

One of the biggest gifts marrying a man with ADHD has given me, is teaching me to really listen. I am not there yet, but I am better. Slowing down, reigning myself in and understanding that conversations are not a race to the finish. Pausing before responding. Clarifying. Enjoying the randomness and novelty in which many conversations swerve. Being comfortable not being in control of the direction of the conversation. Understanding communication not simply as a way of resolving a task, but as a lovely thing in itself.

There are so many people who are quick to respond to my husband in ways which demonstrate really poor listening. It isn't their fault, they don't know any different. But...their ignorance is very damaging. Being consistently misunderstood makes it hard to bother to interact. It begins to eat away at your sense of self: "why do people not really hear what I am saying?", "I am rubbish at explaining things to people," "Why do people not let me finish?"

We recently had the absolute pleasure of having a new senior at my husband's place of work. This person really taught me the value of listening, dispassionately and with grace and love. He took the time to understand, clarify and reframe. I am learning a lot from seeing how he interacts with my husband.

I hope that I will become an ever better listener. It is not in my nature but I think I can learn. I hope more people look at the way they interact with people who think differently and respond with curious listening, rather than frustration or judgement.

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