Adult ADHD Support
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Can people with ADHD learn how to notice social subtleties?

I'm being told at work that I need to notice social subtleties, and after thinking about it overnight, I couldn't come up with a solution. I just DON'T notice social subtleties, and I need people to be blunt with me. What can I tell my boss about this? I already started the conversation about ADHD and said I'm working on finding a therapist/psychologist that can help me figure it out, but isn't there already an answer out there somewhere? Please, if you have any examples or study results, etc., send them my way.

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It's always scary when your boss asks you to "shape up" in some way. Don't panic. Find out EXACTLY which cues your boss is talking about -- there are Zillions of them to choose from. Exactly what is the problem? How did this come up? Who said this? If it's not your boss who said it, forget about it and move on.

If it is your boss, make them pinpoint their concerns - and address THAT. I would address the situation ONLY -and not get into an explanation of your ADHD symptoms. In fact, I advise you to stop talking about your symptoms and treatment completely. It's not your job to educate them and talking about it so openly makes you vulnerable to all kinds of judgement and negative consequences -- including helping them build a case against you for "under-performing."

Keep your comments and requests strictly around skills/work-flow related questions. How your mind works is none of their business. You don't have to defend yourself by explaining. They will likely take everything you say and turn it against you because they don't have the condition and it makes absolutely no sense to them. I can't imagine how your boss is actually going to MEASURE your ability to pick up on social cues. Really? Where is that going to show up in your performance review? How well do others in your department pick up on social cues and how exactly is your boss measuring their "performance"? The workplace is filled with socially dysfunctional human beings. Are

you really that much worse than anyone else in your department or are

you being singled out because they know you're "hyper" / have ADHD?

What's probably happening is a BEHAVIOR that needs to be addressed. You can change a behavior. It happens all the time. Focus on that. I have actually STUDIED social cues - there are books on social and business etiquette - and learned how to act the part regardless of whether or not it feels good or makes sense to me. I approached it the same way I approach learning a new software program. I can't be the real me there anyway, and it's just another performance skill.

I have to remind myself to acknowledge other people in the room, stop and wait my turn, don't interrupt (can't help it!) etc. because it doesn't come naturally to me at all and people get offended when I don't do these things.

Don't let this shake your tree. They aren't "all that" anyway. Take a deep breath. Stand your ground.



I disagree. It's best to bring up your difficulty when it comes to ADHD and workforce performance, because anything they say you need to fix that is directly related to a disability that you have (ADHD is on the ADA's list of disabilities), will force them to provide accommodations for you to perform well on a more even playing field with your peers. I am going to use it to my advantage instead of letting them fire me for a protected disability!


I agree with StrongMom. ADHD is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). If they fail to give you accommodations or if they are discriminating against you because of your ADHD you can take legal actions against them.


My manager refused to tell me anything specific in my behavior that was wrong or off, just vague statements about how people from different departments complained about my communication with them. He told me to communicate less internally, but my job depends on open, free communication with many different departments.

I wonder if some of it is made up by whoever it is that complained, or they are exaggerating and hiding behind my boss instead of confronting the issue with me directly and having a healthy dialogue wherein we solve a problem and move on. I wonder if the real problem is with the other person. I will never know now. How dysfunctional! It's not a healthy environment to work in.


Watch this to stimulate executive function -


I also miss to recognize social cues. I really only recognize exaggerated facial expressions and body language. I have done all I can to study expressions, but it seems that all the examples for in online series of expressions are in the most exaggerated degrees of expression. I consistently miss the mid range in subtlety, and very subtle expressions in real time. I’ve actually decided against a career change into social work because I cannot read people well enough (or at all) to be able to help them effectively AND keep myself safe. I do not only have ADHD, but am HFA, also. No matter how much I read, watch and have things explained —the dots just do not connect for this . I hope you have better success in figuring it all out than I did.

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