I’m a big believer in transparency. But it can be hard to know when or what to reveal about your ADHD. Whether it’s a new job or a new relationship, you may find yourself grappling with this question. Do I share? How much? When? Or do I keep it to myself?
My heart ached in my chest when a professional I know told me that his job was in jeopardy once he disclosed that he had ADHD. He was in agony over his decision, and he deeply regretted it. On top of struggling to improve his performance at work, he now had to worry that his neurotypical supervisor did not understand him or his ADHD.
When is it appropriate to share?
In a nutshell, it’s appropriate to share about your ADHD when the symptoms are impairing your outcomes.
Yes, share. The more you share with your partner the better, transparency is key to intimacy. And it’s important that you both see the behavior for what it is. Then you can be strategic with it. When you’re late for dinner – again, you’ll both know that it’s not about how much you care. It’s about poor awareness of time. You may need a reminder on your phone to cue you when it’s time to leave the office.
With prospective partners:
Yes, share. If you want this person in your life, they deserve to know the whole of you. Especially when they’re feeling frustrated and hurt after you’ve shown up late for the third date, or forgotten about it entirely!
No, don’t share – not just yet. But do share if you’ve been asking for an accommodation that you know would help you and they’ve been refusing it. Explaining why you’re making the request, and how it will help, can go a long way in getting what you need. “I’m asking for a closed door to my office because ADHD makes it hard for me to filter the auditory distractions. I do my best work when I have quiet.”
When you receive poor performance feedback, take that to your ADHD coach. Make a plan with her to address it. Your employer doesn’t need to know about your process, just that you’re addressing it meaningfully.
No, don’t share. They don’t know you yet and you don’t know them. It’s up to you to choose the job that works for you. Once you’re hired, see how it goes. Give yourself a chance to shine. You can decide down the road if you need to directly share about your ADHD.
Before You Share Anywhere, Ask Yourself:
- What is the outcome I’m looking for?
- Will it serve me to disclose in this context?
- What exactly do I want to say
- How do I want to say it?
- What strategy will I use to manage my impulsivity during the conversation
- What is my gut telling me about sharing with this person?
Sharing is About Information, it’s Not an Excuse
Sharing is about communicating information that’s relevant to the situation. Successful disclosure implies that you’re taking responsibility for your behavior and how you will manage it better going forward.
A careful, well-crafted disclosure can be an effective way to take responsibility. It’s a way to be accountable. And that’s always a win-win – – for everyone involved.