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Old 09-21-18, 11:46 AM
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Missing contextual clues

I recently read something that really opened my eyes about my present and past social life, all the way back to when I was a kid, and why it's so often been disastrous and anxiety provoking (a full 40% of people with ADHD also suffer from social anxiety, mainly caused by years of disastrous, often unexplained, results when socializing - not knowing why a great conversation suddenly went sideways, rejection, going after the wrong women/men, etc.)

It seems that, although people with ADHD are often the "life of the party" (me, usually!), they also often find themselves hyper-focusing on one aspect of a social situation, like what to say or worrying too much about how they look, and therefore missing the critical signals they are getting from the people around them. Missing these "social cues" leads to mistakes in their dating life, and social life in general.

The list includes talking too much, sticking on a conversational topic too long, talking too close and ignoring personal space, ignoring flirty signals on one hand and ignoring blow-off signals on another, ditching conversations that are going really well mid-way through, getting frustrated or discouraged or ****** off by minor conversational obstacles or negative feedback, treating teasing and banter as rejection, not asking someone out or getting their number even when things ARE going well, missing conversational cues that people drop, and missing contextual clues that can change social meanings.

So I would do all this stuff, and then wonder why I was getting negative reactions from people. I spent WAY too much time going after women that had zero interest in me, while I'd sabotage myself with women who were showing an interest. I'd stop talking to a girl at a party once we'd had a good initial conversation because I didn't want to "ruin the good feeling". I'd spend so much time ruminating about a bad encounter with one woman that I'd blow off a woman I ran into soon afterwards that really WAS interested. I'd take a girl I liked to a party, and then blow it with her because I'd start hopping from girl to girl at the party, flirting, and then wonder why my date never talked to me again. I'd settle on women that didn't thrill me because I couldn't succeed with the women I really wanted, and then wondered why I couldn't stay faithful. I'd obsess about my looks, convinced that that was the problem. I'd also blow it with male friends or potential male friends.

As I read the article in question, I was, I admit, depressed about the years of suffering and social confusion I went through because of my ADHD, and just how handicapped I really was, without even realizing what the issue was.

I'm in a better place now, but I want to try to help any other men avoid the endless string of failures that I had to endure, at least by pointing out my experience and making it clear that ADHD plays a big part in this kind of thing, and not your worth as a person.

Over the years, and especially in the last year as I've taken a hard look at how dishonest I've been with myself when interpreting social cues, I've gotten better at focusing and noticing social cues, and reacting appropriately, both at work and in my social life. It's helped me become a lot less inappropriate, for example, and react a little more naturally in conversations.

I still have a ways to go, though, and I see in a lot of these threads that there are a lot of folks, especially fellow males, that are desperately lonely and have given up socially because they just can't navigate these waters with "normal" people, including of course women.

Does anyone have experience with social coaches that can help with this kind of thing? Was your therapist able to help with this, or does it require a separate social- or life-coach to give you those additional skills?

I'd be interested in hearing anyone else's experiences with such coaching, either in professional or personal life. I'd also be interested in hearing from women who've encountered men with ADHD having problems picking up on social cues, both positive and negative.

D.
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Last edited by namazu; 09-22-18 at 03:08 PM.. Reason: links to commercial websites are prohibited -- see ADDF guidelines
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Old 09-22-18, 12:45 PM
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Re: Missing contextual clues

I cant speak towards coaching or that sort of self talk but I can absolutely share about gut level honesty. I do not mean to whip out the sobriety card again (lest people roll their eyes) but it was life changing for me. There is this one thing I had to do and it was first to make a list of resentments I had against people places and institutions and that took awhile and was long. Then I wrote what happened and why I had those resentments. THEN I had to list my part in all of it. I was indignant..of course it wasnt MY fault it was everyone else. Through close examination I found that I had some part in all of it. (the exceptions are abuse of any kind, trauma, stuff like that ) All of that was honesty. Being a real close examiner of all my character defects. Amends were made if necessary and I try and own my sh*t now and make amends as soon as I can when something happens. We all have those days where we lash out at someone or act like a straight up A-hole but I try and acknowledge it and apologize right away. The motivation for me was to feel free and unburdened. Feeling unburdened felt so good it was worth the pain of going through that process. No one likes to feel bad or wrong. But feeling good is so much better.
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Old 09-24-18, 08:25 PM
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Re: Missing contextual clues

I had a therapist who really helped me on social skills. Some of these skills are so basic now that I'm amazed that I missed them all along.

So yes, a great therapist can help in these matters. Funny: this therapist was treating me for another problem beyond ADHD ... But she noticed my social problems, even though she also noticed I was extremely open and extremely friendly.

She literally would script what I could say in certain situations ... She did this a lot ... she would speak out the way I could respond to someone ... or approach someone.

So yes, growing up, I can see I missed a lot of social cues. I think there is something about ADHD that blocks us from picking up certain cues ... and then magnifies what should be minor problems ...

I too pursued women who clearly were not interested ... and ignored women who were interested. I also didn't know how to defend myself from unfair criticism ... it was like I would go silent.

One thing I'll say ... social cues are really subtle. Extremely subtle ... But the obvious often works ... Give people compliments ... and accept their compliments. Crack a self-deprecating joke if it fits ... but don't be self-deprecating to escape. Claim your strengths and be proud of them.

True story: I once dated a dance teacher ... and she offered to give me private lessons ... For whatever dumb reason (something from my family) I figured I should pay her for any private lessons. I mentioned this to my therapist. She nearly screamed: the whole point of dating this woman is that you can get free private lessons from her, she said!

What? I said. I was confused. The therapist mentioned my area of expertise which has more to do with reading and editing ... She said when you read or edit for a friend, do you charge them?

No, I said. Of course you don't, the therapist said. So why are you uncomfortable with this gf of yours giving you private dance lessons?

I later talked to my gf ... and she said she had been extremely uncomfortable with the idea of me paying her for lessons. Ultimately, I got lessons from this woman and they were fun and she enjoyed herself and she helped me a lot. It was great.

Moral of the story: I had to use a therapy session ... in order to allow a gf to help me in a way that she was skilled at helping people--even though she has offered to do so. It took therapy to say yes to an obvious gift!
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Old 09-25-18, 04:11 AM
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Re: Missing contextual clues

The ironic thing about social cues is, we are supposed to be good at seeing and understanding them yet- most of us miss them.
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Old 09-26-18, 02:56 PM
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Re: Missing contextual clues

I don't even know what 'social cues' are. But I have experienced most of what the OP describes.

Sometimes I say things that make people angry, and have absolutely no clue why it makes them upset. It's like sometimes they take everything I say wrong?

Frustrating for sure.
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Old 09-26-18, 04:46 PM
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Re: Missing contextual clues

Oh for sure I miss all the clues & cues. I would have to make it a point to ask people to be blunt if they want to convey something to me.

I am amazed I ever procreated! My ex-wife to be, before we dated literally had to get in my face & ask me if I wanted to go for a walk with her. She was tired of hinting for me to ask or offer.

An amazing woman who I know had once met me while I was traveling. She took me out to eat, we had a few drinks, chatted & laughed and when it was late she took me back to my hotel. She asked if I was interested in getting breakfast in the morning. I replied, "sounds great, give me a call" and closed the door. (Reminds me of the ending of Dumb & Dumber movie) to be fair, she was extremely way out of my league and I told her that I would be an anchor on her. She is very successful today and I am very happy for her, my kids think "she's the one that got away' they adored her so much.

I cannot read a room, I overstay my welcome, I cannot take a compliment, I sabotage my relationship (hard), I am getting a little better but I goof up paying someone a compliment (it can totally sound like an insult, but someone may mention that coming from me it's a compliment), & I generally can't tell if someone is just being polite to me for being a dumba55.

Back in the day, everyone knew me and I had no problem being out going. I was completely unplugged and unfiltered. Nowadays, I just keep to myself and try to stay quiet. Some people think I may be shy or embarrassed, but mostly people just suck & I prefer to avoid putting myself in situations that can make the evening news.
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Old 09-28-18, 10:50 AM
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Re: Missing contextual clues

OK, I think some of you have misinterpreted my original post as being another "Venting" post or "Why I'm feeling sorry for myself today" post. Yes, looking back my social life was pretty disastrous for many years and yes, it makes me sad sometimes to think of it.

But, as the Buddhists like to say, the only question you can EVER ask is "What do I do now?"

You can teach yourself to notice contextual clues. You can start a good meditation practice and start getting in touch with the reality of your surroundings instead of the endless self-defeating and distracting chatter in your brain.

So, if you can't afford professional social coaching, I'll suggest three things:

1. Start a good meditation practice. This sounds completely counter-intuitive, right? "How is sitting on a pillow and closing my eyes going to help me talk to chicks, Daniel??" Here's how: Meditation will help you start to notice exactly what is going on in this moment. And this moment. And this. You will slowly stop obsessing about what just happened (the past) and worrying about what will happen (the future). It will help you relax into the current moment and notice what's going on NOW, including what your emotions are, and what that cute girl in front of you, or that coworker, or whoever, is signaling to you with their body language and words. It has been shown to "re-wire" the brains of people with ADHD to be more attentive and present. It will also, if you do it right, help you stop obsessing so much about yourself and start caring genuinely about other people, and stop being such a dick.
2. Go on YouTube and start watching videos on reading body language, improving your appearance, making small talk, etc. There are a ton of them. Some are really good. I haven't done a search specifically on "contextual clues", but it would shock me if there weren't any on that too.
3. In your therapy, don't spend all your time complaining, about the past or the present. Ask your therapist to give you strategies on improving your self-confidence, finding your purpose, interrupting your habits of self-loathing or self-defeat, helping your social skills, being more appropriate. I know it's tough, and I'm struggling in some of these areas myself right now, too. Big time. But you CAN'T give up on yourself, or on humanity.

Really, this is your one life. That's it. You can go around saying "people suck" and "I have ADHD so I'm always going to be a loser", and that's fine if that's what makes you happy. But really, if you understand that you have one life and you can either spend it dead inside and hating people and life, or spend it extending yourself to others and making the best of this imperfect and sometimes unsatisfying life, and trying to enjoy it anyways, maybe it will be a little more satisfying and enjoyable.

Just try to make each day a tiny bit better than the last.

My basic thrust with the above "homework" is this: 1. Start noticing what's going on around you in the present moment, by learning mindfulness, and then 2. be equipped with knowledge about things like body language and verbal cues when you DO start noticing. That's where the YouTube research will start to help. I'm an instructional designer. It's called micro-learning. Don't feel you have to take a 3 week course or read a 200 page book to learn something, when a few 5-minute videos will tell you everything you need to know!

As for the mindfulness, there are a lot of good books, but again, books don't work for everyone. My go-to is the "10% happier" app, and I'm sure there are other good ones too that might work for you. I do not work for the people who designed this app, but it has been a life-saver in a lot of areas. It's designed for "skeptics and busy people", and what makes it great is you just pick the guided meditation that you think will help you work on the area you're concerned about at that moment, pop in your earbuds, sit down wherever, and just do what the instructor says.

Hope that helps, and please stop feeling sorry for yourself and giving up on life and people, including yourself. I'm no one special, I'm really not, I'm not happy all the time, and I'm not some guru. I'm just a dude who is trying to think about other people 10% of the time, who has learned a little tiny bit, and if anything I just said helps you in any way, then that just made my day.

Breathing is not optional.
Daniel
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D.

Last edited by DanielGM1970; 09-28-18 at 11:14 AM.. Reason: clarification and typos
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Old 09-28-18, 11:08 AM
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Re: Missing contextual clues

Quote:
Originally Posted by shaunG View Post
I don't even know what 'social cues' are. But I have experienced most of what the OP describes.

Sometimes I say things that make people angry, and have absolutely no clue why it makes them upset. It's like sometimes they take everything I say wrong?

Frustrating for sure.
Hi Shaun,

A social cue can be something like body language or a tip-off in the way someone is saying something or what they are saying that lets you know what they think of you, and which direction you should or shouldn't take the conversation.
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D.
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Old 09-28-18, 02:10 PM
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Re: Missing contextual clues

On a lighter note, there's a really cute Verizon commercial that reminds me of this discussion:

They are all at a mellow, hip party, and this big cuddly guy (let's call him Bob) is asked to program some music for the party from his phone. So he taps on his phone, and starts playing some thrash metal. The party grinds to a halt.

Verizon guy says, in a kind voice, "Read the room, Bob", and the cuddly guy looks sheepish and then programs some mellow dance music. Everyone starts bopping their heads, and Verizon guy gives Bob an approving look. Bob says, smiling, "I did good, didn't I!"

I saw this commercial and thought, "OMG, Bob used to be me!" lol
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Breathing is not optional. - Dr. Raymond Wertheim

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D.

Last edited by DanielGM1970; 09-28-18 at 02:15 PM.. Reason: Typo
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Old 09-28-18, 07:39 PM
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Re: Missing contextual clues

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Originally Posted by sarahsweets View Post
The ironic thing about social cues is, we are supposed to be good at seeing and understanding them yet- most of us miss them.
We as in? People with ADHD? I'd have thought it's something we naturally suck at though I guess it can be improved and Daniel's advice above sounds sensible.

I tend to over and misinterpret social clues. I think.
Unless really everyone thinks I'm an idiot....
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Old 09-29-18, 03:47 AM
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Re: Missing contextual clues

I can read social cues only too well, and pick up the vibe in a room, etc;
but then I tend to overthink them.
this has gotten way better since treatment, though.
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