6 expert tips for adults with ADD who want to make a good first impression. How to watch what you say and how you say it.

John had had it with judgmental people, so he found a way to screen them out: He would no longer shave, bathe regularly, or wear clean clothes. He thought that if people were interested in him despite his disheveled appearance – and his sometimes off-putting adult ADD behaviors – they were his kind of people. It turned out that John, one of my clients, was right. The handful of friends he made were definitely not the judgmental type.

Am I suggesting that you, too, thumb your nose at social norms? No. I just want to remind you that first impressions have an enormous effect on our personal and professional relationships. They dictate whether you get a job or a date or make a friend – and, as they say, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

Folks with AD/HD often have a hard time with first impressions; their hyperactivity and inattentiveness may be misinterpreted as a lack of respect for or interest in others.

If you get off on the wrong foot, acknowledge the difficulty and ask, “Can we begin again?”

Most people judge others in the first two minutes of a first encounter – some experts say the first three seconds. Consequently, it’s wise to do all you can to make a good first impression. You know the importance of a smile and a firm handshake, as well as of eye contact. (It’s been estimated that one’s appearance counts for more than 90 percent of the overall impression one makes, while the words one speaks count for less than 10 percent.)

Here’s what else you can do:
Choose your attire carefully

Try to figure out what other people will be wearing – and aim to match it. This might require some detective work. The day before a job interview, one of my clients stood outside the office building he was going to, checking out what the employees wore to work there. Most wore suits – so he did, too.

If you’re uncertain of what to wear to a social event, call ahead and ask.

Be on time

In most cases, that means being 10 to 15 minutes early. Keeping people waiting is a sure way to make a bad first impression.

Watch your speaking voice

Our style of speaking can affect others more than we think. People with the hyperactive form of ADD often talk too loudly and too rapidly. Those with the inattentive form tend to speak too little and too softly. Physical prompts, such as a vibrating watch (like the one available at WatchMinder.com), can remind you to slow down – or to speak up.

Be a good listener

Rein in your impulsivity or impatience, and let others finish their thoughts before speaking. If this is hard for you, press your tongue against the top of your mouth as you listen.

Then, reflect back what they said before speaking about yourself. Not sure what to say? It’s hard to go wrong with “tell me more.” Using the other person’s name a time or two will earn you brownie points.

Make sure you have something to say

Many people with ADD see small talk as a waste of time rather than the tension-breaker and relationship-builder it is. One way to make small talk easier is to keep up with current events.

Most news sites on the Internet carry the big stories in an easy-to-read format. If you’re to meet with parents of your child’s classmates, look over the notes about classroom activities that the teacher has sent home in your child’s backpack.

Be careful with humor

Since you don’t know the sensitivities of the people you are meeting, avoid jokes and funny comments until you know them better.

This article published by permission from ADDitude Magazine April/May 2006 issue of ADDitude.

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