Hacking my Brain 01

close up of computer mouse and keyboard with coffeec

Group Meetings & ADHD

Now that I have adjusted to my official, proper, questionnaires and interviews-filled diagnosis, a very upset mom, a bout of depression, and spend some months reading on all the weird and wonderful stuff the ADHD brain does, I am on a serious quest to hack said Brain. [1] The following is one of the most powerful quotes I have found so far:

“ADHD is not a disorder of not knowing what to do, it is a disorder of not doing what you know,” (Russell Barkley)

Issue: Distraction

Because of the meandering Brain, things get lost. Brain wanders off into realms unkown. It becomes entirely obsessed with a shiny pen, or your earrings—wonder if they are from Etsy. Look at the colours! I don’t agree with what he just said. The colours are so pretty. All of a sudden there is a surge of interesting information, and the CPU gets a flash-flood of associations and cross-references—all the while still admiring your earrings—thus the world drowns in noise. Staying tuned-in and listening is not only challenging it is outright exhausting.

“Whatever is causing people to lose focus is much bigger than their ability to control it — that’s exactly what makes ADHD a disorder,” Murphy says. [2]

On the quest for strategies, I had a chat with my lovely colleague and journalist Amanda, whose tips I will share in the following post. I approached her because I was wondering if interview techniques could comprise ADHD strategies. After all journalism is the profession of getting information out of situations and people—right? So far so good. Now, Amanda pointed out that there is something called BBC Academy, so they are THE professionals. I could ask. I mean the worst that could happen was them telling me I am a weirdo and bugger off. So. Deep breath. Write message.

I asked via Facebook chat if they by any chance had resources that might help. Well, guess what! The guys were brilliant, and send me some links. Over the next weeks I will write a series of blog-post about the advice I found, insights from the advice, things that worked, things that didn’t, strategies I extrapolated. So, this is the first blog-post:

Advice BBC Academy

Play Dumb

Play dumb: You can get more out of someone by asking why they did something or what they meant. Be curious and ask neutral questions that allow the guest to explain themselves. How so? What do you mean?” (Julien Worricker, 9/10/17) [3]

You can probably empathize that the two words ‘play dumb’ stood out, but maybe not for the reasons you think. I am an Erziehungswissenschaftler (Educational scientist? There is actually no proper English term for that) and ethnographer. One of the key principles of ethnographic research is to ‘estrange the familiar’ aka ‘play dumb’. For some reason I never made this connection before: treat meetings like ethnographic fieldwork. Estrange the familiar, question everything, don’t make assumptions. That’s what I learned from this article.

Testing the Theory

Incidentally the advice from BBC Academy came timely. Not only did I have a couple of very important meetings, but also two which lasted well over six hours each. You can imagine these are challenging for people with neuro-typical brains, now throw into the mix a lot of that:

Screen Shot 2018-03-20 at 20.17.38http://www.littlevillagers.com

Right, it’s not a meeting! It is ethnographic fieldwork. Redefine the parameters!

I have learned the more successful strategies to cope with ADHD have to do with tricking Brain into redefining situations, or distracting Brain into more constructive distractions (I know! We just leave it at that for the moment.) The strategy worked. I watched the Gorillas: body-language, micro-reactions, what was said,  what was not said, phrases, catch-words, reactions of others, obvious reactions, obvious non-reactions, non-verbal communication across the room. Jane Goodall would have been proud! All of this helped me to stay tuned into what was said, as the audience in the back of my head was busy with the show, the front of my head had a chance to listen.

Okay so first rule of journalism worked! [4]

Negative Side-Effect

Sensory overload. There was no ‘private time’ during the long meeting in which one could defragment Brain. So it works really well in short meetings, long meetings come with a side-effect.


[1] I know, I know but I can try to make things easier, better, forget less, do more.
[2] https://www.buzzfeed.com/carolinekee/it-is-a-disorder-not-a-decision?utm_term=.bfBmJpJxV&ref=mobile_share#.lxmDNVNwn
[3] http://www.bbc.co.uk/academy/en/articles/art20171005102830849
[4] First rule of journalism I discovered as rule for me. Not actually first rule as in number one in the rule book. You can tell I had a chat with a lawyer earlier.

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