You can learn a lot by listening. There’s no skill more valuable than being able to really listen to someone.
That said, being able to ignore people is a close runner-up.
People will tell you all sorts of things. This is even more true when you have ADHD because ADHD is something not very many people understand but a lot of people have opinions on.
So today I want to talk about the underappreciated skill of ignoring what people tell you. Being able to truly not listen to what people are saying to you is a valuable life skill. It frees you to focus on what’s important to you, commit to what you think, and pay more attention to the people you do want to listen to.
My feeling on this is that there are certain types of people that you should, as a rule, just never listen to if you have ADHD – regardless of whether their intentions are good or not. Here’s who they are:
1. People who tell you ADHD doesn’t exist/is an excuse/was invented by “Big Pharma”/etc.
This is the most obvious group of people you should ignore if you have ADHD. The science is unequivocal that people with ADHD have brains that work differently than people without ADHD, so the main reason to ignore these people is that they simply don’t know what they’re talking about.
The other reason to ignore these people is that the stakes are so high.
If you don’t have ADHD, it’s not imperative that you ignore them – although I’d still recommend it.
If you do have ADHD, taking it to heart when someone says “ADHD isn’t real” can really mess up your life. The research is crystal clear that failure to treat ADHD has serious consequences in the realms of education, work, relationships, financial security, physical safety and mental health, among others – which, incidentally, is both a reason people who say “ADHD is a made-up disorder” are wrong and a reason you can’t afford to listen to these people if you have ADHD.
2. People who tell you you’re too smart to have ADHD
People with ADHD can be smart. They can be successful in some aspects of their lives, even without treatment. Neither of these things means ADHD isn’t seriously influencing their lives overall.
Therefore, when someone pays you the “compliment” that you’re “too smart” or “too successful” to have ADHD (there are other, more subtle ways of phrasing it), what you should actually hear is “don’t listen to anything I’m saying.”
Not being smart and not being successful in any part of your life are not diagnostic criteria for ADHD. Inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that cause you problems are.
3. People who offer you easy answers in exchange for money
As people with ADHD, we’re easy marks for con artists looking to make a quick buck because we want to believe in anything that will help us manage our condition.
The bad news is that there are hundreds of people lining up ready to tell you whatever you want to hear so they can take your money.
The good news is that there’s a relatively easy way to filter out ADHD “experts” who don’t really have your best interests in mind: just ignore people who offer to provide you easy answers.
ADHD is a complex disorder. Anyone who has a simple explanation of what it is – along with a magic cure they’re willing to sell you – probably isn’t someone worth listening to.
You should feel doubt, uncertainty and confusion at different times throughout the course of your ADHD treatment. Be wary of anyone offering to make all your doubt, uncertainty and confusion disappear by snapping their fingers in return for a little money.
4. People who give you life advice that goes against what you feel in your gut
This one is trickier because these might be people whose input you value and whose views you respect. However, you should still ignore these people when they give you life advice that just feels “wrong.”
To give you an example from my own life, after I finished college, I was deciding between going on to grad school and taking some time away from school to do … well, I wasn’t really sure. Pretty much everyone whose input I valued encouraged me to go straight to grad school and try to advance my career in music.
But I didn’t, simply because it didn’t feel like the right decision. And taking time off from school has allowed me to have experiences I wouldn’t have had otherwise, even if it makes my career more ambiguous in the short-term.
The reason I believe it’s important to trust your intuition, even over life advice you’re getting from people you respect, is that how ADHD effects your life is something that your intuition is good at factoring into its decision-making process but that other people aren’t necessarily aware of. In my example of deciding whether to go to grad school, school means something different to me than it does to someone without ADHD.
Besides, if you follow your gut when making life decisions and ignore people who give you advice that feels wrong, you’ll end up with one of two possible outcomes:
- Your gut was right, and the risk pays off
- Your gut was wrong, and you learn something
On the other hand, if you listen to people who give you advice that goes against your gut, you’re setting yourself up for the worst possible outcome:
- You aren’t following what you really believe, the people you’re listening to were wrong, and you probably don’t learn much except that you shouldn’t have listened to these people in the first place
5. People who say you can’t accomplish your goals
You should ignore these people whether you have ADHD or not. But if you have ADHD, you’re especially likely to encounter them.
Compared to people without ADHD, people with ADHD frequently have bigger discrepancies between their strengths and weaknesses – so they’ll be great at some things but absolutely terrible at others.
Often, people who say you can’t accomplish your goals will be people who believe that because you’re absolutely terrible at some things, you can’t possibly be great at other things.
This logic can seem convincing. If you aren’t careful, you might come to believe it yourself.
However, it’s absolutely wrong. Read the bio of almost any famous person with ADHD and you’re likely to read a story about someone who was terrible at many things, maybe even dropped out of school, before eventually discovering something that he or she was good at.
Now, if you have ADHD, the path you take to accomplish your goals might look different than the path you’d take if you didn’t have ADHD.
So instead of listening to people who say you can’t accomplish your goals, here’s what you should do: ignore them. Take the time you would otherwise spend listening to them. Use that time to find a path to your goals that’s compatible with the way your brain works.
Of course, you could argue that it seems a little excessive to just straight-up ignore people who think ADHD isn’t real, people saying you can’t have ADHD, people trying to mislead you with easy answers, people giving you bad life advice and people saying you can’t accomplish your goals. Perhaps you should instead try to talk to these people and help them understand your perspective.
But I think that’s a waste of time. There’s no middle ground between what these people are selling and what I’m buying. Their attitudes simply have no place in my life as someone with ADHD.
So just ignore them and live your life!
What do you think? Are there other kinds of people you ignore as a rule? Share your thoughts in the comments!