ADHD and Likeability

Here is the link to my YouTube video on ADHD and Likeability:

Most of us know the popularly defined symptoms of ADHD – inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. These symptoms are a good starting place but tell a small fraction of the story.

In my practice, I use a different set of starting criteria: rejection sensitivity, interest-based attention, and emotional hyperarousal. Dr. William Dodson provided this rubric in an article from 2019. Thinking about ADHD in these terms helps me connect more with my patients. It also resonates more with them when they reflect on the narrative of their lives. Perhaps most importantly, it provides the beginning of a call to action; a way of thinking about ADHD that helps the patient improve their lives by doing more than just taking a medication.

Certainly, the medications play a significant role for many people. Adjustments to other lifestyle issues do too: nutrition and use of supplements, exercise, sleep, and certain “brain games” go a long way. But most of the people who come into my office want more than this. They want an even more 360 degree approach. I will never forget the moment, when one of my patients looked at me through tears, eyes glittering with anger, and said “I want to go to war with this. I want to defeat it completely.” Since that moment, I have developed a more complete program to address ADHD. Today, I will discuss the concept of Likeability.

Let’s go back for a moment to the “new” ADHD definition. The Interest Based Attention can make it hard for a person to listen in a conversation. It can also make it hard to pick up on non-verbal cues, the social subtleties, the subtext of an interaction. The Emotional Hyperarousal can lead to blurting out of turn, or have such strong emotional reactions that it becomes too hard to stay in a constructive conversation. THEN, the rejection sensitivity kicks in. The person feels SO betrayed, or unloved, and they cannot bounce back into the flow of the discussion. Another social opportunity lost.

Depressing, right? Imagine if this was a COMMON outcome of your interpersonal interactions – you are just starting to get a sense of how destructive untreated ADHD can be. It is NOT just an academic issue.

So, how do I begin to address this with people?
First, they have to buy into the idea that they can grow. That there are such things as social skills. I’ll say, “Do you know THAT GUY who everyone seems to like at a party, or THAT GIRL that everyone knows and gets along with at work?” They have a skill, and you can develop it too. Then, I ask if they believe that there can be more happening in a conversation than a simple transcript of the conversation would show. I’ll usually give the example of picking up on the fact that someone is bluffing in poker – you can TELL without even knowing their cards!!!
I have them do reflections on likeability. What makes you likeable – what do people say about your strengths? Then, the more unpleasant questions: What makes you less likable? Where do you get in trouble socially? I tell them that no one likes to think about social interactions as an economic exchange, but that unconsciously people know when the social scales get out of balance.
“You’re EXTRA” the kids say now-a-days. When I was young it was “high maintenance.” My parents would have said a person was “too much.” HOWEVER, when a person is more likable, others are more willing to tolerate some of the imbalance. EXTRA becomes “fun and quirky.” TOO MUCH becomes absentminded but brilliant. HIGH MAINTENANCE becomes “high energy.”

So, what traits to we work on? In my experience, the traits with the highest return on investment are: RELIABLE – return calls and texts. Show up. TRUTHFUL – be honest, it makes people feel valued….BUT KIND – will your comment make a person feel good or bad? IS there a way to say it that could make it kind? CHEERFUL – smile more! Laugh! Find humor, make a joke.

I hope this was helpful! My goal is to educate and hopefully improve someone’s life. If you enjoyed the video please hit that LIKE button on YouTube and SUBSCRIBE, and share it with someone!

I’ll be back by Monday with a new video.