by Caroline Maguire, M.Ed., ACCG, PCC
You made a comment and the minute it left your mouth you realized that what you said was cringy and made people uncomfortable, so now no one will look you in the eye and you wish you had a time machine and go back and fix it.
As a person with ADHD, you often go into the wormhole when you’re talking and say things you meant to filter out. Instead of ending the conversation, you go on and on about some personal detail and by the time you’re finished, the people listening have your bank account numbers and a history of the sexual dysfunction in your family.
Despite the fact that you would never hurt anyone intentionally, your words offend and then you have to live with the regret and self-regulation hangover that sets in.
Why couldn’t you just control your mouth?
Here Are 5 Ways to Stop Sabotaging Yourself by Saying the Wrong Things At the Wrong Time
#1 Shift Your Self-talk
It’s easy to ruminate and create a story about every social misstep. And then to come up with a story you tell yourself about how people feel about you.
Instead of just believing all your negative inner self-talk, fact check your reasoning by asking yourself some powerful questions, including:
- What is the story you are telling yourself?
- What evidence is there that this story is true?
- What else could be going on?
This doesn’t have to be a complicated process. The point is to not allow your reflexive or “instant” reactions to reinforce the story that you “always say the wrong thing at the wrong time.”
Sometimes it is true, but certainly not always.
And if you have said the wrong thing, try to practice some self-compassion and self-forgiveness so you can move forward.
Forgiveness starts with shifting your self-talk and the story you tell yourself about your past social faux pas. Forgiving yourself for past mistakes is key so you can move forward.
#2 Identify the Emotional State You Were in When You Entered a Challenging Social Situation
When flooded with sensory information, lights feel brighter, sounds are louder and crowds seem to close in on us. Sensory bombardment and overwhelm can make situations draining and anxiety-provoking.
Start by diagnosing your emotional state as you enter a social situation. Check in with yourself about what has triggered you in the past and led to you losing control and saying the wrong things before.
Was it the:
- sensory experience
- topic of conversation
- what happened earlier that day
- triggers from the past
Do some self-diagnosis.
When I .. (insert experience) then I … (tend to do)…
#3 Work on Self-Regulation
You find yourself simmering in their own emotions, bombarded by people talking, squinting because of the sunshine, while struggling to find your keys (that happen to be in their hand) all while walking into a social situation.
When you become activated by stress your arousal levels in your body and brain go up and up like an elevator climbing in a high rise. Losing your self-regulation occurs when those activation levels continue to rise and consequently, throw off your internal homeostasis.
Self-regulation that elusive state means bringing your body’s arousal levels down so you can return to homeostasis, here’s how it can be achieved:
- Take 5 minutes to become more centered, by engaging in a guided meditation, deep breathing
- Expel some of your energy by doing a short burst of exercise – jumping jacks, running up stairs or doing push ups for 15-minutes will increase serotonin and dopamine and calm your mind down
- Take a walk outside or in the woods to experience a different canvas for your senses
- Inhale a scent that calms you, breathing deeply and slowly until you reach a calmer state
- Engage in Havening which can be CPR for the amygdala. Havening uses electromagnetic waves in the brain by using palm havening = rubbing your palms together, face Havening rubbing the face and arm havening self- soothing by rubbing the motion – the delta waves in the brain signal the amygdala that there is no threat and reduce anxiety and stress.
#4 Learn How to Be a Social Spy
If you are talking to someone, entering a social situation or realizing you are not sure what to do next- start with social spy.
Social spy is one of my absolute go-tos when someone needs to learn how to manage their social behavior but they’re not sure how to do it.
It looks like this: Scan the situation and watch people’s body language, facial expressions, and social cues. If you struggle to manage conversation and spy, then zoom-in on their face and then zoom-out on the room conversation and the bigger picture.
Finally, listen and observe what they talk about with others, what they read, what clubs they are members of and what sports they play.
#5 Know Your Audience
When you enter a social situation it’s hard to know what to say and what not to say. Unless you consider the situation and what the situation requires, it’s easy to respond incorrectly.
Not sure what the expected response should be? You can take your lead from observations you have made, including who is there and what they are about. For example:
- Do they like to joke around?
- Are there topics they prefer not to talk about?
- Are they a small group or do they include lots of people?
When you know your audience, you have the greatest chance of reading the situation correctly. Then, what you say is adjusted depending on the situation, the people who are there, your relationship with them and your comfort level with them.
Try using Social Spy in your life. And watch my Ted Talk on becoming a Social Spy for quick hacks… Caroline Maguire’s TED Talk, “Becoming a Social Spy”
Caroline Maguire, M.Ed., PCC, author of the ground-breaking book, Why Will No One Play with Me? is a leading expert in social skills development. In her latest course (coming in January), she helps people become socially engaged, confident, and open to the unlimited world of learning, connection and life.