Interrupting is a common characteristic of those with ADHD, often negatively impacting professional and social connections. But simple techniques exist that may help you socialize better.

Living with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can lead to communication challenges, especially in social settings.

One of these challenges is interrupting others during conversation, which can be frustrating for everyone involved. Understanding why it happens can help you implement communication techniques to control interrupting others if you have ADHD.

While there are quite a few reasons someone with ADHD might interrupt others, there are also ways to control it. Continuing to interrupt could:

  • make the speaker feel devalued
  • cause misunderstandings and conflict
  • strain personal and professional relationships

1. Practice active listening

Active listening involves focusing on what another person says rather than what you should say next. It helps you understand the conversation, process the speaker’s emotions, and prevent interrupting since you focus on their words more than your thoughts.

Clinical Social Worker Steve Carleton, LCSW, CAS, with Porch Light Health, explains that the following tips can help you with active listening:

  • nodding your head
  • asking questions as a way to seek clarification
  • summarizing what was said by the other party

2. Take notes

If possible, consider taking notes during a conversation. Taking notes helps prevent interrupting because you won’t worry about losing your thoughts.

Michael Anderson, MA, LPC, with Healing Pines Recovery, explains, “It might help if you ask ADHD patients to jot down their thoughts during conversations since this will enable them to recall all points without necessarily having to interfere through interruption.”

You’ll likely feel better knowing that you wrote it down and can address it when the speaker finishes because you won’t have forgotten it.

3. Count to three before speaking

If you feel like you might interrupt someone, take a breath and count to three. It gives you a moment to process what someone says and respond appropriately.

Anderson explains, “Natural pauses can be created through techniques like “wait-time,” where an individual counts mentally up to three before responding.” Taking the time to count can also help because you may realize that what you want to say isn’t necessary or can wait until it’s your turn.

You may also consider putting yourself in situations where you take turns. This can also help build your patience skills. Being forced to wait can impact your ability to refrain from speaking out of turn, which can promote better communication skills.

4. Hold something you can fidget with

Having something in your hand can help you keep your focus and avoid interrupting others. It can help redirect your mind so the impulse to speak out of turn isn’t so strong. Therapist Nicholette Leanza, LPCC-S, with LifeStance, explains, “Playing with a fidget toy can help diffuse some of the extra energy you may have. Even when our mouths are closed, our hands may chatter, so keep them busy.”

5. Use nonspeaking cues

You can let someone know you’d like to say something by giving nonspeaking cues rather than interrupting.

Leanza suggests, “To appropriately interject a point, you can raise a finger or your hand slightly to indicate you have something to say.” With this in mind, consider nodding, leaning in a little, or respectfully raising your hand.

Someone with ADHD doesn’t interrupt to be rude. It’s typically an unintentional behavior that manifests in a few different ways, including:

  • finishing someone’s sentences
  • abruptly changing the topic
  • speaking out of turn

Research shows those who live with ADHD may face difficulty with taking turns, which is one of the reasons they speak out of turn and interrupt others. They also experience hyperactivity, impulsivity, and restlessness, which can make it hard to focus on the conversation.

Instead of focusing on the discussion, you may find that you fidget or your mind strays toward other thoughts. These challenges can make it hard for you to wait your turn to speak. It may also lead to switching topics and thoughts without processing what the other person said first.

If you experience symptoms of ADHD, it can be challenging to deal with social interaction. You may not realize if you’re being rude or that anything is amiss. But interrupting others may happen if you find yourself getting excited to express your thoughts and feelings before missing the opportunity.

You may also face challenges when socializing with others due to having multiple thoughts throughout the day, which may be difficult to process when not physically or verbally expressed. This may cause you to say what comes to mind without considering if it’s an appropriate time to do so. To others, what you say may seem like a sudden, unrelated thought or a tangent.

According to psychotherapist Sisse Marie with Neurogan Health, tangents can be good or bad, depending on where they lead. “The downside is it can completely change the course of the conversation while confusing others. The upside is it has the potential to lead to unexpected insights or sometimes even connections. The key lies in learning to manage it and, if possible, to link it to the original conversation.”

Not everyone with ADHD interrupts others, but it’s a common symptom that can interfere with social and professional connections. Learning to control interrupting others promotes personal growth and helps you form meaningful relationships.

If you can’t overcome ADHD symptoms and interrupting others causes problems in your life, consider seeking professional support. You can discuss treatment options with a doctor and talk with a therapist regarding the challenges you face. A professional, such as an ADHD coach, can also help you improve your social and communication skills.

As you practice controlling the impulse to interrupt others, consider:

  • giving yourself some grace
  • acknowledging that you interrupted someone
  • using it as a moment of self-awareness

These moments will help you build better habits and control interrupting others in the future.