Interviewed by Patti Schwab
The title of your presentation ” Why Does No One Like Me? Learn How to Read the Room to Create a More Positive Social Approach” can you tell us how you came to offer a session on social skills for adults at the Atlanta conference?
I’ve been working with children with ADHD and their families for years. My book “Why Will No One Play with Me?” helps parents learn how to help with social skills of their children. In hearing from adults with ADHD I’m often asked, “Why doesn’t anyone like me? I’m nice to people so why don’t they like me back?” It struck me how similar these questions were to my book title. The fact is sometimes ADHD’rs take everything too personally. They struggle with the idea they are not socially successful and don’t understand why. My concern is that adult ADHD’rs aren’t overblowing people’s perception of them or creating a negative story for themselves. This presentation is to help identify ways to raise awareness of behavior in social situations that are problematic and improve them. By learning how to develop situational awareness and reading the room they can successfully navigate these hurdles, build confidence and have a more satisfying social life.
What does “read the room ” and “situational awareness” mean?
Reading the room is having situational awareness or interpreting what is going on in any given space. Basically in any space we enter there are unspoken rules as well as social expectations or norms that govern what we do. So reading the room is being aware of that space and situation and what that calls for and then learning to adapt our behavior. Part of this practice is to pause to take in your surroundings as well as your own feelings and sensory perceptions. Pausing is a basic of self-regulating which is very hard for us, but by doing so we are able to determine appropriate behavior at that moment.
Do you have an example of “reading the room”?
Sure, just recently I was at church and observed the woman in charge of the nursery running around doing a million things in preparation for the children’s activities during services. People were stopping and interrupting her to give her all sorts of different information. They weren’t reading the room. They weren’t looking at her tone, pace or energy. She was obviously focused on preparing for the children’s arrival and didn’t need the information they were trying to give her. That’s reading the room, observing peoples tone and pace, what going on with them, putting yourself in their shoes and adjusting your behavior.
What will happen at the Social Skills Lab?
In my work as a social skills coach with children we spend time in real life situations. By taking them to Barnes and Noble or Starbucks they can learn to read the room live in real time. Not only can they interpret the social information they’re receiving but also their own reactions. They can pause and see if they’re getting distracted, what to do, what strategy they can use to deal with their own self-regulation issues or deal with things that get in their way.
There is very little help out there for adults with ADHD. There are social skills coaches that work with adults, but a lot of them work with folks with autism. There are people that work with ADHD adults but they are more difficult to find.
So my friend Dana Maher, (also an instructor at the ADHD Coach Academy) and I had this idea that we could adapt what we do with kids and offer something similar to adults at the conference. People attending the conference will have this wonderful value added experience in a very non-judgmental and safe environment. We’re going to teach them things about unspoken rules and social expectations. Then Dana, myself and other trained social skills coaches are going to partner up with ADHD adults in groups and pairs and go to the bar or other spaces, show them how to observe social information and also work with them on their own feelings and reactions. In that real time situation, they can see what happens when they have so much sensory information coming at them and what is that might make them feel overwhelmed and in that moment experientially learn to manage them.
How can they continue to raise their awareness & improve their social skills?
One of the ways we can continue to raise awareness is articles like this. It’s important for people to know that it’s okay that our executive functions can make social interactions difficult. Rather than always wondering what’s wrong, we can learn to adapt our behavior to make them better.
What do you hope people take away from these sessions in Atlanta?
It’s never too late! This is a special opportunity not only for people at the conference but for us to continue to convey that you’re my people. I adore everyone and I’m so happy to do this as well as connect with everyone that is participating. Our entire goal is to be in a situation where people can get help on the spot and access to this kind of coaching that isn’t always available. They will be amazed at what a difference it can make in their life