ADHD Q&A: How Do I Stop Myself From Making Social Gaffes?

August 3, 2010 Douglas Cootey

Somewhere, on the net last week, I read how somebody was constantly rubbing boot polish off his teeth. What a clever metaphor for putting your foot in your mouth all the time. Made me laugh. Yeah, I know what that tastes like (tastes like). That's why I write about it so much. A few weeks ago, I wrote about how Laughter and Friends Fix Most ADHD Gaffes. That inspired Reader Jane to ask me a question…

qaJane asks: How do I stop myself from making social gaffes?

"Ever since I can remember, there have been occasions when I’ve said inappropriate things. Recently, I’ve starting obsessing about it. Suddenly, one of my past faux pas will pop into my mind and then I will constantly fret about it, wondering if the person I upset or insulted will remember and is still saying, “Do you remember that time when Jane said…? It’s beginning to affect my days quite seriously; these thoughts are constantly in the back of my mind and when they come to the fore, I’m quite distressed and spend a lot of time on “what if” scenarios. I know it’s pointless, but I don’t know how to quiet my mind. I’ve [even] considered contacting all the people I can remember being rude to and apologizing, but what if some of them have forgotten and think I’m even more peculiar bringing it up?" (Read Jane's comment in full here.)

Classic ADHD Behavior

Jane, thanks for writing. You are experiencing a classic ADHD negative behavior cycle.

1) You have a careless foot-in-mouth moment
2) You start ruminating about it, unable to tune it out like a loud radio in the background stuck on the You're A Loser! station.
3) Surprisingly, you then have low self-esteem and think that more impulsive behavior will fix the first faux pas

ADHD Tips to Control Impulses

My first words of advice: Don't call anybody! Egads, is that a disaster waiting to happen. I know. I've tried it. True friends will either talk to you about your faux pas, or will give you a fool's pass. If you set fire to the Barge of Friendship, chopped a hole in its hull, then pushed it into the rapids, I believe it is safe to say that relationship is a goner. If you wish to have a clear conscience—for instance, if the incident involved you swallowing a size 20 clown shoe sideways—write a note of apology, give it to your victim, then let them take it from there. But don't get your hopes up. Most people don't understand the ADHD lack of control over the impulse center. They'll just think you embarrassed them on purpose.

Secondly, worrying about unresolved issues is the fruit of anxiety and that lack of impulse control again. Set a timer for five minutes and challenge yourself to stop worrying about it. Then increase the time. Help yourself let it go by distracting yourself with something entertaining and uplifting. I'm afraid sometimes feet are hard to extract and worrying about them won't make it any easier. Letting things go comes easy for some people. Then there's folks like us. Work at it. You'll get there.

Thirdly, learn to laugh at the silly mistakes. They are kinda funny. As for the impulsive outbreaks of rudeness, you need to train yourself to button your lip. You can do it, Jane. The power to regulate your mind is within you. First, become aware you've lost your temper. Then work on closing the gap between when you lose your temper and when you become aware it happened. Soon, you'll be able to stop yourself as you feel your anger flare. It takes practice and determination.

I've lost friends. Lost jobs. Lost respect. All because I couldn't keep my mouth shut. Over time, however, I have trained myself to keep my snarky bits to myself and save myself grief. Fear of public humiliation is very motivating. That, and I got very tired of the taste of my feet.

Follow me on Twitter for my ADHD escapades at @SplinteredMind or my novel writing project over at @DouglasCootey. And if you're a glutton for punishment you can friend me on Facebook as well.

APA Reference
Cootey, D. (2010, August 3). ADHD Q&A: How Do I Stop Myself From Making Social Gaffes?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 22 from

Author: Douglas Cootey

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Douglas Cootey
September, 6 2010 at 6:21 pm

Hilarious! Thanks for sharing that.

August, 9 2010 at 3:24 pm

this post is very useful. thx!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Douglas Cootey
August, 10 2010 at 9:26 pm

Glad you found it useful, Michael. Thanks for reading. I look forward to hearing more from you.

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