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Thanks to ADHD, paying attention to the other person when having a one-to-one conversation can be difficult. You switch off, or your mind starts to wander within a few sentences of the interaction.
Want to know how to stop losing focus when talking? Here are a few tricks and suggestions you could incorporate to keep your focus levels intact when interacting:
- Engage with the speaker
- Deal with the distractions
- Get some rest if exhaustion is to blame
- Try fidget tools
These are things you could do right at the spur of the moment, or before and after the conversation. Keep reading to learn more.
How to Stop Losing Focus When Talking
There are certain things you can do to sharpen your focus and listen to other people a lot more effectively. Some are makeshift techniques, while a few others offer you results for the long term.
Engage With the Speaker
If you think you are starting to drift away from the conversation, get talking, or get actively involved in the conversation. Ask the other person questions (if you’ve managed to listen to and follow them up to that point) or just ask the individual to repeat what they just said. When asking, speak with confidence.
If you hesitate, it will clearly indicate to the other person that you were simply not listening all that while. When you exhibit confidence, it also appears as if you are interested in what the other person is saying. The other individual would think they uttered something important that you would like to hear again. You may even admit that your mind just wandered. Again, say that with confidence, and the other person would not mind that or feel offended.
When you ask the person to repeat what they said, do so by repeating the parts of the conversation you remember and end it with a request to repeat the last part that you didn’t catch.
You can also give the other person some visual signs that you are interested and paying attention. For instance, you could nod your head or look the person in the eye while they speak. Making eye contact helps you remain focused on the topic of discussion and also lets you interpret nonverbal communication cues such as facial expressions. Also, occasionally repeat the things the speaker says just to let them know that you are listening.
If you are having trouble focusing in between, put in the effort to convince yourself that you need to focus for only a few more seconds. Keep putting in the effort, and you should have breezed through the conversation without any wavering thoughts.
Take Distractions Head On
If emotion is constantly taking your mind off what the speaker is saying, take cognizance of the feeling and put in a conscious effort to pivot your attention toward the person speaking to you.
You can always take care of your feelings later.
The distractions could be in the form of random thoughts, hunger, fatigue, etc. If it’s hunger and the person you’re talking to is a close friend or family member or someone with whom you could open up about things, let them know that you are feeling hungry and would like to continue interacting while munching on something or after a meal.
If the distractions are external such as in the form of music or construction noise, close the door or window if you are inside a room. If it’s the heat in the room that’s causing you to lose your focus, shift your discussion to some other place.
Kindly note you cannot completely escape distractions. Therefore, you should anticipate and be prepared for them. Employ the aforementioned tips to engage with the speaker to stay on track in the conversation.
You can even use the distraction to steer the conversation. In other words, instead of ignoring the commotion, you could direct the speaker’s attention to the distraction source. For instance, if the traffic noise is distracting, you could lament how busy roads have become or talk about something on similar lines.
Get Some Rest
If the only thing you’re thinking about is sleep, then no matter how hard you try, you would not be able to focus.
Perhaps you have worked throughout the week without proper rest. If that’s the case, let the person know that you are feeling absolutely exhausted and would like to take a nap. If the other person is empathetic enough, they would understand your plight and would not mind you taking a break.
Even taking a nap for as little as 20 minutes could energize and ingest life back into you. If you are outdoors and cannot possibly take a power nap, then stand up and take a brisk walk for 10 minutes. The activity may slightly tire down your muscles, but it will certainly rev you up mentally. This is why it’s usually advised to not exercise close to bedtime.
Kindly note the brisk walk is a stopgap solution. No amount of power naps or brisk walking can substitute sleep. Therefore, go to sleep early that night so that you don’t feel groggy again the next day.
Meditation is a contemplative practice that offers you the means to look at your inner self and investigate your mental processes. Meditation, in fact, is the fundamental component of focused attention meditation. During meditation, you are expected to focus on a particular thing, invariably your breathing sensations. Meditation may sound too simple and ineffective. However, once you start doing it, you will have a change of opinion.
If you are just starting with meditation, maintaining focus can be difficult. Even people who have no major attention issues find it tough to concentrate and invariably notice their thoughts wandering away into fantasy, planning, analyzing, etc. After some time, you would realize your mind isn’t focused on your breath anymore. This is normal. It, in fact, is your brain’s natural trajectory. When you meditate, you only become more aware of it.
How to overcome this mind-wandering? You just need to disengage from the thoughts that drew you away and get back to focusing on your breath again. After some time, the same wandering and you putting in conscious efforts to pull things back would recur. This would perhaps turn into a never-ending cycle for the first few days. Once you get used to meditating, the wandering should lessen or maybe even completely go away.
Meditation could relax you and also regulate your emotions for the short term. However, it could also alter your brain permanently if you incorporate it into your life as some kind of mental exercise. Though there are different ways to meditate, it’s important you practice the method that suits and serves you the best. To derive maximum benefits, practice in an open, quiet place since you don’t want external noises making things even harder.
Keep Fidget Tools Handy
People with ADHD cannot stay still. They constantly feel the urge to be active or do something with their hands or feet. In other words, your ADHD would make you “fidgety.” And if you have nothing to grab onto and fidget with, you will find it extremely difficult to engage in a proper conversation or remain focused.
As per studies, fidgeting helps increase alertness. Increased alertness levels mean improved focusing ability. There are toys that are designed to cater to your fidgeting tendencies. Some of the more popular tools are:
- Fidget spinners
- Fidget pens
- Fidget balls
- Roller chains
There is no dearth of fidget toys in the market.
If you’re looking for fidget spinners, there are options galore. However, not all are made the same or are of equally great quality. Diztracto Fidget Spinnerz are a solid choice. If you fancy a more striking design, this futuristic-looking fidget spinner by INNOPLUS is worth taking a look at. And if you would like to buy fidget spinners in the multiples, this 25-piece pack by Fidget is a great value.
Similarly, you have multiple product options when it comes to fidget pens, balls, and roller chains. For brevity and simplicity’s sake, here are our top recommendations for the three: Editha stress relief metal ball pen, Mobii fidget ball, and FidgetWorks Rollie Pollie, respectively.
If you fancy fidget “tools” with a more adult-friendly design, you should be looking at orbiters, fidget cubes, spinner rings, etc. The fidget cube by Antsy Labs is a winner in most people’s books. Also, Orbiter by TEC Accessories is a solid fidget device that you can carry in your pocket.
In case you don’t know what a spinner ring is, it’s basically a tool that stays on your finger at all times. Unlike normal rings, these spinner rings have a slightly looser fit so that you could spin them around freely, such as this unisex stainless steel spinner ring by PAURO.
Why Does ADHD Cause Focus Issues?
ADHD isn’t necessarily an attention deficit, but rather an issue with synchronizing one’s attention span to chosen tasks. While mundane tasks could be tough to pay attention to, other tasks could be totally absorbing.
Not being able to focus when interacting with someone could make you look or come across as cold, peculiar, or impolite. Most people with ADHD have this issue. In fact, ADHD is notorious for causing focus issues, not just when you’re talking but also when doing activities that are not necessarily enticing, such as studying.
When talking with someone, ADHD causes the human brain to focus on the relationships and links between things instead of the actual information bits. This causes you to easily drift away or jump various thoughts, ideas, and feelings. These things happen because ADHD brains are low in norepinephrine and dopamine by nature. These naturally occurring chemicals control attention levels and brain arousal.
People who have no ADHD issues have the ability to push their brains to concentrate when the situation demands. People with ADHD, on the other hand, find the call to focus exasperating, rendering it extremely difficult for them to get their thoughts together.
Signs Your ADHD Is Causing You Focus Troubles
The inability to focus or concentrate isn’t a medical condition. But that doesn’t mean it could be overlooked either. The following are some signs your ADHD is causing you focus issues:
- Not being able to remember things or events that happened a short while ago
- No clarity of thought
- Difficulty sitting still
- Difficulty remembering the location of things or losing things frequently
- Inability to decide on things
- Lack of focus
- Inability to carry out complex tasks
- Lacking mental or physical energy to focus
- Making silly errors
Also, you may find it harder to focus during certain periods of the day or in specific scenarios. You are likely to miss meetings or appointments due to your lack of focus. Others may also often notice and comment on you appearing distracted always.
Certain lifestyle changes may also affect your focus, which include:
- Lack of sleep
- Excess stress
Certain medications could also be causing focus issues. If you are administering drugs for your ADHD, contact your pharmacist or doctor to confirm that your medications are not at fault. Do not stop administering medications without the knowledge of your doctor.
Harnessing Fidgeting to Boost Focus
Individuals fidget when they feel bored, under-stimulated, and unfocused. Fidgeting has been, for long, seen as a negative ADHD symptom. However, in recent times, experts and parents have started to realize fidgeting can be put to good use and need not be simply stopped. In other words, fidgeting can be employed to help improve focus.
Let’s understand this with an example. Let’s compare a kid with ADHD listening to a lecture in school with the same kid sitting and playing video games at home or a friend’s house.
If you know how ADHD works, you should not be surprised to learn that the kid is likely to fidget while in the classroom but would be able to play video games without losing focus. This is because, in the latter instance, the kid is actively engaged. In the classroom example, the child is in a passive state.
This principle – though not universal – indicates that when interested, stimulated, and engaged, people with ADHD tend to be less hyperactive. Active fidgeting turns uncontrolled leg shaking, foot-tapping, etc. into controlled actions. This, in turn, could result in increased focus.
Do You Fidget With Your Hands or Feet?
To make fidgeting increase your focus levels, you should first identify how you normally fidget. For instance, many people with ADHD fidget using their hands. They could be tapping on the table, picking at random things, playing with a pen, etc. Others could fidget with their legs or feet, such as shaking their legs, tapping their feet, kicking on something, or any other physical movement that involves their lower limbs.
Once you’ve ascertained the kind of “fidgeter,” you are, pick your tools accordingly. For instance, if you primarily employ your hands, any of the aforementioned fidget tools would be of help. If you are more into leg-fidgeting, you may have to work with a fidget foot band, sensory and tactile tools for your feet, sensory stress balls, etc.
The roller holder by The Focus Fidget is a solid tool that you may use to roll/push or rest your feet on. Not to mention, this tool can be used only when you’re seated on a chair. If you fidget with your feet, invite the other person home (if possible) for a conversation.
You may use sensory balls for your feet when the discussion is outside. Another option, which perhaps is better, is moving your feet in a controlled manner. Besides not requiring any particular tool, it’s also not very obvious to others. Using your body parts could also come in handy if you use your hands to fidget.
Irrespective of what tool you use, make sure:
- They do not take away your auditory or visual focus.
- You are able to use the tool while looking straight at the person talking to you.
- The tool isn’t overstimulating and certainly not a fresh source of distraction.
- The tool or the fidgeting strategies you employ are discreet, particularly when in public.
As someone with ADHD, you can easily get bored. And when that happens, you tend to shift focus onto other things such as while talking – particularly if the other person is taking their sweet time to get their point across. One easy and quick way to not lose focus while listening is to keep the conversation interactive. In other words, chime in with your inputs or respond before the other person enters monologue mode.
Most of the tools and techniques suggested above might seem pretty straightforward to incorporate. But it may not be so when you actually do it, particularly if you’re considering using purpose-built tools. Therefore, try out different tools and strategies to find out what truly works for you. Quite often, the simplest tools and techniques are the most effective.