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5 Ways to Happiness Through the ADHD Golden Rule

adhd_ahead1aLearning about ADHD late in life has taught me a few things about how I’d like to be treated. There were many times in the past (before my diagnosis) that things might have gone more smoothly if I’d understood myself better, and what I needed from others.

This got me thinking: maybe the way I’d like to be treated would work for others too.

That’s when I came up with my ADHD Golden Rule:

Do Unto Others As You Wish They’d Done Unto You

Here are some ways you too can apply your own ADHD Golden Rule. First figure out what works for you, then see if you can apply the same considerations to others. It might just make your life (and others’) a whole lot easier.

Example #1 – When you’re emotionally flooded

In my pre-diagnosis days, I lost friends because of behavior that was overbearing or even seemed aggressive to them. When they ended our friendship, I didn’t understand why. In hindsight, I realize I’d been feeling emotionally overwhelmed, but like many with ADHD, I hadn’t internalized the appropriate social skills to respond well.

Decades later, after my ADHD diagnosis, I was in a situation where I felt someone was way too far in my personal space. I felt emotionally threatened and overwhelmed. My first reaction was to consider severing ties altogether. Then, I decided to test-drive the ADHD Golden Rule.

Based on our history and what I knew about this person, I was sure they hadn’t intended to bully me. The relationship was very valuable to me, not unlike my close friendships in the past.

Instead of rejecting them, I explained how I felt. I was afraid to share, but I did. I also let them know what approach would work better for me. As a result, the relationship survived and flourishes.

Example #2 – Forgiving forgetting

Remember all those times people were offended by your forgetting something? (for a disastrous example of this from my own life, read chapter 4 of my book, ADHD According to Zoë, wherein I forget something and lose a friend over it.)

So now that we understand how our ADHD memories work (or, more to the point, don’t) we can cut others some slack in this regard too, right? And we can also save ourselves emotional pain by not taking it personally. Just like you wish others hadn’t done in the past. See how this works?

Example #3 – Keeping it cool when they act like a fool

Remember all those embarrassing moments when you felt like a dork in public or social situations? Wouldn’t it be nice to have your spouse gently explain to you in private – rather than in public – that your amazing talent of taking off your bra without removing your sweater first is not one you need to share with total strangers at the pub? (Don’t ask me how I came up with that example. Maybe I’m making it up.)

If your loved one, friend, or anyone else acts lame in public, how about graciously ignoring it or better, finding a way to ease them out of the situation? After all, then at least they can stay in blissful ignorance rather than feeling humiliated when they learn that their behavior has gone several blocks south of the norm.

And not in a good way.

Example #4 – Embracing quirkiness

This one’s a corollary of Example #3. If you have ADHD, you know you’re different. If you’re smart, you’ll learn to embrace your differences. Decades before my diagnosis, I told myself that my goal was to become the youngest eccentric in my city. I tried to embrace it by putting a positive spin on it, making it seem like a worthy goal (even though I knew it was just that I couldn’t change, no matter how hard I tried).

So, while we’re embracing our own quirkiness, we need to embrace and enjoy the quirkiness of others. Why not? It would be such a boring world if we were all the same.

Example #5 – Being sensitive to insensitivity

When I learned that I was inherently, irrevocably more sensitive than 80% of the population, again, I learned to accept it and appreciate it, rather than try to hide or overcome it out of shame as I had in the past.

Instead of wondering why no one else felt assaulted by the volume or level of violence at a movie, for example, I realized if I want others to accept my hypersensitivity, I need to respect their more typical (statistically speaking) level.

Those are just a few of the ways that you can apply the ADHD Golden Rule.

In what ways would you like to be treated that others might appreciate as well? Has having ADHD taught you new ways to be understanding or compassionate toward others? I’d love it if you could share your ideas to expand our ADHD Golden Rule.


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5 Ways to Happiness Through the ADHD Golden Rule

Zoë Kessler, BA, B.Ed.

Zoë Kessler is an award-winning author, journalist, and speaker specializing in women and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD / ADD).

A frequent contributor to ADDitude Magazine, Kessler has also created video, standup comedy, and guest blogs on ADHD and Marriage covering ADHD-related topics.

Zoë, an internationally recognized ADHD expert, has been interviewed on radio and featured in magazine articles, documentaries, and books on the topic of women and ADHD across North America.

Her newly-released memoir ADHD According to Zoë - The Real Deal on relationships, Finding Your Focus & Finding Your Keys (New Harbinger Publications, 2013) about life with ADHD is now available.

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APA Reference
Kessler, Z. (2014). 5 Ways to Happiness Through the ADHD Golden Rule. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 2, 2020, from


Last updated: 17 Sep 2014
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