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    Adult ADHD: Tips to Curb Impulsive Speech

    WebMD Feature
    Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD

    When you have ADHD, it may feel like you can’t help what you’re going to say. Talking impulsively is a symptom, but there are ways to keep yourself in check and avoid embarrassment.

    Use the 'Traffic Light' System

    With ADHD, it can be hard to pick up on social cues. So you have to make an extra effort to figure out what's going on in your head and around you before you speak.

    First, use a traffic light system, says Teri Wright, PhD, a psychologist in Santa Cruz, CA.

    Here's how it works. When you arrive at a party or enter a meeting, do a quick check of your state of mind to see if you're relaxed or overcharged. Then visualize a traffic light. Imagine a color based on your mood.

    "If you're relaxed, that's a green light. Yellow means you feel a bit wound up. When red lights flash, you know you really have to watch your mouth," Wright says.

    This system is a quick and helpful reminder to take care and wait your turn.

    Other tips for when you want to get into a conversation:

    • Don't cannonball into the conversation. Instead, mentally rehearse what you want to say. If you can, jot it down.
    • When you do talk, Wright says, "Speak slow and low."
    • Check yourself before stepping too close into someone's personal space. That's a big turnoff.


    UCLA psychologist Elizabeth Laugeson, PsyD, says role-playing helps improve social skills, too.

    "Before entering a conversation, you have to watch and listen, and figure out what it's about," she says. "Because that's not always intuitive for someone with ADHD, it really helps to see it rehearsed and then practice it."

    You can do this with a good therapist or ADHD coach, she says, and you can try it at home.

    If you're married, "your spouse can be incredibly helpful, as long as both of you are motivated to work together. After all, who knows you better? Who can give better feedback?" Laugeson says.

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