ADHD at Work
Eye Contact - What's the fuss?
I recently had a supervisor who insisted that I “look her in the eyes” when she spoke to me. To be honest, I hadn’t really thought about it, or hadn’t given it much concern.
But when I did look her in the eyes (with appropriate breaks, of course), I had a very difficult time following the conversation or focusing on anything she said.
As I thought more about it over time, and kind of observed my own behavior for a while, I realized that I almost NEVER look anyone in the eyes when having a serious (non-romantic) conversation. I find that, for me, focusing on one spot, or perhaps some inanimate object, I hear, and understand, and focus, and assimilate much more of what’s being said, and it also helps ME to communicate my thoughts. Looking at somebody in the eyes just “because” causes me to mentally grind to a near-halt.
I’ve done some searching online regarding the topic, and there’s all this “remedial training” for ADD/ADHD kids who aren’t making “proper” eye contact.
What the hell difference does it make? I’m the one with ADD, as well as being an off-the-scale introvert. Notice I said “introvert” and not “shy”... these are not necessarily one-and-the-same, although a lot of extroverts tend to expect us to be just like them. Well, both ADD *and* introversion present barriers to un-prepared meetings and other speaking events. I can pretend to be an extrovert and can (and have) speak to over a thousand people at once… because I practiced what I was going to say, until I got to the point where all I needed was a single bullet per speaking point.
Gee, did anyone notice that I just went “ADD”? Anyway, I would like to ask the rest of you:
Is it easier for your to concentrate and be more participative in certain conversations when you’re NOT making eye contact? Or if you do make eye contact, are you forcing it to fit in, or does it just come natural to you?
Second half of that question is this: I toll my boss, “You know, I have ADD, and I assure you I mean no disrespect, but I actually pay *better* attention when I’m focusing on an inanimate object.” In essence, I believe I just expressed the need for a “reasonable accommodation.” (i.e., please don’t force me to make eye contact if you want me to remain engaged in this conversation.”
Please, no “...but it’s the polite thing to do” answers. If you’re ADD, you must your own interpersonal communication quirks. If you’re also introverted to a fair degree, that adds yet another twist to the equation. Should this be up for grabs as a “reasonable accommodation” if it helps me be a better employee?
FYI, I did not have any customer-facing roles in this job, but if I’m in familiar situation that doesn’t require me to do any deep thinking or heavy conversation (about an unknown topic), I can be a fake extrovert in those situations.
Thoughts? Feelings? Unfeeling conformists?
Thanks in advance for your input…
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