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Saying Yes When You Mean No: A Challenge for Those with ADHD and Tips for Giving the Right Answer the First Time

Say Yes Texaco 1932I can’t tell you how many times I do this – say yes when I mean no.  And it has caused so many problems in my life, and while I am getting better I need a constant reminder of how and why it is important to give the right answer the first time.   That right answer never fails to be “let me think about it and get back to you.”

If you have ADHD you know that your mind often is way ahead of your reality.  You want to say yes to those you care about, please others, do it all, see a smile on someone’s face; often at the expense of yourself or your actual abilities.  It is so difficult to think things through before you react in your ‘aiming to please’ way.I had an experience of this recently with my new roommate, in which I agreed to do something in a dash of excitement and desire to solve a problem and please her.  As the days grew closer to the event,  I grew anxious as my health was not great, I had deadlines looming with work, and then I came to learn I was more of a want than a need.  I ended up proposing another solution that backfired and caused all kinds of chaos, and was reminded once again of my need to instill my ‘let me think about it and get back to you’ response no matter how hard it might be.

People that are very close to me know that I say yes whenever possible, so it hasn’t been a problem in a long time because they help me navigate through this and recognize when I am saying yes when I should say maybe.  They are aware of my health and my stress levels and my capacities, and are intimately aware of what happens when I over extend myself.

This conflict with my new roommate was a gentle reminder to review some key things I needed to put in place to avoid this type of thing in the future among new friends.

These tips include:

  • Don’t make promises to anything on the spot. ANYTHING.  Let the person know you need to check your schedule and get back to them, even if it is calling them back in a minute.  This includes a quick lunch or coffee – it is amazing how many of these can pile up and keep you from doing the work you need to get done and how easy it is to say yes when you mean no.
  • Plan out weekly what you want to do and need to get done. If things come up during the week that aren’t on your schedule, first make sure you have met your priorities.  Add only as you are able and if it isn’t in your best interest, but is something you want to do, plan it for the next week / month / year.
  • Don’t say yes if something inside is saying no. No matter how much you care about the person, or how much you want to help.  If you do not take care of yourself first, you will be unable to take care of others – I have learned this time and time again the hard way.  You can help them find their solutions but be sure to keep your boundaries and take care of yourself.
  • If something is stumping you, meditate on it. Clear your mind of everything, and meditate.  Focus on your breathe, sit still and let the thoughts and noise float right past you and into the sky.  Often only when we quiet our minds can we find the clarity we need to find a perfect solution.
  • Tell people close to you of your tendency to answer before you think. People that truly care about you will understand this is just a small part of you, and put up protections so they themselves are not disappointed by your tendency to do this.  Instead of taking your first answer, they will say ‘why don’t you take some time to think about that’.  It serves as a gentle reminder that while they know you may want to, reality is not always going to make it possible and instead of being hurt they want you to make sure first that is the answer you really want to give.

My brother has become so skilled at this, as he understands when I get excited I often over commit at my own expense.  He could easily take advantage of this, as I would do and do and do until I fell over exhausted and spent as I have in the past – which ultimately helps no one.  Instead he forces me to take time to think about each and everything tiny little thing I offer, so that I am not just acting on my brain and heart for them, but on my brain and heart for myself as well.

It is easy to take advantage of those with ADHD as they will generally say yes and yes and yes.  But it always backfires, because eventually they explode, and it hurts everyone involved.  Learning how their mind works and how to make it work for everyone is the only thing that helps all in the long term.  I’ve found keeping the above tips top of mind critical for both myself and those that I am close to in keeping a truly loving relationship beneficial for all.

Have you had problems saying yes?  Please share any tips you find useful as well.  Thanks for reading!

Creative Commons License photo credit: dlofink

Saying Yes When You Mean No: A Challenge for Those with ADHD and Tips for Giving the Right Answer the First Time

Kathryn Goetzke

I own a company called the Mood-factory (, a company that creates products based on how sensory experiences effect moods. I also run a nonprofit for depressio, iFred (, we are working to change the brand of depression. And yes, I have ADHD, along with PTSD, major depressive disorder, and a host of other challenges, opportunities, and gifts.

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APA Reference
Goetzke, K. (2011). Saying Yes When You Mean No: A Challenge for Those with ADHD and Tips for Giving the Right Answer the First Time. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 25, 2020, from


Last updated: 12 Apr 2011
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