Especially for children, ADHD and eye contact using don’t work together too well. Many people with ADHD struggle with social skills in general. Typically, they find it difficult to understand other’s emotions, which makes empathy a challenge. Furthermore, they many times find simple social interactions painful or awkward. This all results in not always knowing how to interact with others or pick up on social cues. As a result, eye contact just doesn’t happen often if at all.
While many kids in general struggle with eye contact, for kids with ADHD, you shouldn’t just assume that one day they will grow out of it. Possibly, they will. Maybe, though, they won’t. If they never can learn to make and maintain eye contact well, they could struggle with everything from romantic relationships to job interviews later in life.
In this post, we want to go over the issues surrounding ADHD and eye contact. Primarily, we want to cover why eye contact matters. We then want to talk through how you can work to improve making eye contact. Hopefully, in the end, you will see the importance of this communication device and will identify some tools to help improve your ability to use it.
Why Making Eye Contact Matters
ADHD and eye contact can make an impact on many areas of life. Sometimes, we don’t really consider how significant making eye contact really is. From job interviews to romantic relationships, though, making eye contact can have a monumental impact on how people feel about a person. In short, eye contact can matter, and it can matter a whole lot. Let’s consider further why eye contact means so much and why you should care about it.
Eye contact visibly tells the other person that you’re listening
The importance of eye contact starts with the concept of listening in communication. Relationships depend upon a mutual connection of some kind between two people. No matter how short or small the connection, relationships need that connection nonetheless. The most direct way to establish a connection is through talking and listening.
Communication and dialogue involve active participation from more than one person. If only one person talks without any feedback, or active listening from the other person, you have a monologue not a conversation. Eye contact visibly shows the “active” listening on the part of the person not talking. It demonstrates visibly that even though someone isn’t talking, they still are engaging.
We can all listen without actually making eye contact. While this might work well in some instances, people as a whole are visually oriented. When we talk and engage in conversation, we want and need to see that the other person is listening. Making eye contact provides this simple indication.
Eye contact shows interest and respect
Following along with the idea that eye contact shows you’re listening, it also shows interest and respect. These two things are vitally important for so many relationships. Everything from friendships to marriages to even job relationships depend on mutual interest and respect. Just think how a potential employer would feel if during the interview you never showed any interest or respect towards them.
With eye contact, again you can visually show that you hear what the person says and that you have interest in what they say. Your eyes can speak volumes about your real feelings. As someone talks, if you can maintain eye contact, that person usually can feel that you want to listen to them and want to hear them out. They as a result feel respected. They also feel that you really do have an interest in them.
With ADHD and eye contact, many people don’t feel this connection since many people with ADHD don’t demonstrate interest or respect well. With their mind and eyes focused on some other thing during a conversation, the person talking many times feels as though the person with ADHD has no care whatsoever for them or the subject they’re talking about.
Eye contact helps build an emotional and sympathetic connection
Not only can eye contact help show respect, it can also help build an emotional connection with who you talk with. This aspect of eye contact can play a pivotal role in romantic relationships. Unfortunately, though, since ADHD and eye contact don’t work so well together, many issues arise over communication.
People with ADHD many times simply do not appear that they listen to others. They also sometimes seem not to care about others’ emotions. As a result, empathy becomes a challenge for people with ADHD. Inevitably, this only leads to issues in dating and marriage relationships.
On the other hand, though, with good eye contact, the person you talk with really can feel that you listen and care for what they have to say. Looking at someone as they talk about something personal or emotional helps to build a bond. If the eye contact doesn’t exist, though, the person might simply feel neglected and alone.
For people with ADHD who struggle with emotion connection with others, you might look to eye contact to help improve those bonds. Even if you don’t say anything other than agreeing with someone’s feelings, simply making eye contact and showing you care goes a long way. While this can be challenging for people with ADHD, making the effort can still speak volumes.
Eye contact makes you appear more trustworthy and dependable
Finally, getting better with ADHD and eye contact matters because making eye contact can make you appear more trustworthy. Many people see the eyes as the entrance to a person’s true feelings. This has led to the old adage of “eyes never lie.” This saying exists because many people struggle to hide their true feelings in their eyes. They could say one thing, but their eyes might betray their true intentions. As a result, someone who makes constant eye contact might be perceived as telling the truth.
Unfortunately, the opposite impression is also true. People associate dishonesty or hiding something with people who avoid eye contact. For people with ADHD, they might not be lying or hiding information, but others around them might feel they are. After all, impressions can mean a lot more to some people than fact.
This makes it important for someone with ADHD to work to improve eye contact. If people see you as dishonest, this can lead to issues in your job and relationships. Doing even small things to change this impression can make a significant impact.
Strategies for Getting Better at Making Eye Contact
Now that we know the importance of making eye contact, we next need to talk through how to improve ADHD and eye contact. Many people with ADHD unfortunately feel that they just can never get better with their eye contact. This is especially true for adults diagnosed with ADHD later in life. They think that they have gotten through life long enough without making eye contact that there’s no use trying to get better now.
No matter your age, though, you can always work to get better with eye contact. Furthermore, you can always reap benefits from simply making an effort. Let’s discuss some effective strategies for improving ADHD and eye contact.
Pick a spot on the person’s forehead and look at that instead
First, a simple trick to help with ADHD and eye contact still involves not actually looking the person in the eyes. Since actual eye contact proves to be a constant struggle for many people, you can try to “fake it until you make it.” You can do this by simply appearing to look someone in the eyes. Instead of actually making eye contact look at a spot on the person’s forehead between their eyes.
While, this trick seems simple, most people you talk with won’t know you’re not actually making eye contact. Additionally, this helps you to focus on the person without having to look in their eyes. You can in effect practice keeping your focus on them without locking eyes.
For many who struggle with eye contact, this can serve as an effective first step towards getting better. While you might not want to stay at this stage, this can still be a good place to launch towards better eye contact overall.
Match what the other person is doing
A second strategy for improving ADHD and eye contact involves following the other person’s cues. This is also called mirroring their body language. Many people feel awkward making eye contact because they don’t know if the other person feels weird about it or likes the attention. To help eliminate this fear, you should follow the other person’s cues. If the other person maintains eye contact, you should keep contact as well. When the other person looks away, you should look away as well.
This strategy keeps you focused on the other person’s lead and helps to teach you to follow along with reading their body language. At the same time you can focus on both following the other person’s lead and making eye contact. This moves the pressure off of you to just keep up eye contact. As you practice following more and more, though, you will gradually get better at eye contact without noticing it.
Practice while watching TV or a movie
Finally, a third way to get better at ADHD and eye contact is to practice when you watch TV. This strategy helps by removing your closeness to the other person. It also limits the awkwardness as you can get comfortable with looking at another person without feeling strange about it.
The best way to practice with watching TV is to do it during a news broadcast. Most often on a new broadcast, the anchors look directly outward at the camera. When you watch these shows then, you can act as if you are having a conversation with the anchor. As the person talks, practice making good eye contact with them.
This strategy can help you imitate the act of following someone’s eyes as they talk. As you practice this more and more, you will start to feel more comfortable with making eye contact. After a while, you should be able to more easily transition to maintaining eye contact in a regular conversation.
Work to Improve ADHD and Eye Contact a Little at a Time
We have all heard the saying that “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” When it comes to ADHD and eye contact, you need to think along the same lines. While you might want to improve your eye contact right away, progress takes patience and time. If you have ADHD, chances are you won’t become an expert at social interactions overnight.
Instead of hanging your hopes on a quick fix, work to improve your social skills over time. Use the tips in this article to help you gradually improve your eye contact. Remember, though, social interactions require more than just good eye contact skills. While you work on making better eye contact, also read up on how to get better at listening, showing empathy, and other interpersonal skills. Really getting a good handle on all of these things might take time.
In the end, though, you will undoubtedly see an improvement in your interpersonal relationships. Even small incremental progress can pay huge rewards. Keep working at it a little at a time. Over a matter of months, you might even start to wonder why you ever thought making eye contact was such a challenge to begin with.