“The Key to Unlock Active Listening? Puttering Around My Kitchen”

The other night, when my girlfriend and I sat in the kitchen enjoying a cuppa tea, I got up mid-conversation to put away a pack of cat treats. “I’m still listening!” I shouted as I walked into the adjacent room.

She kept talking, and I kept puttering around. I apologized afterward, as I felt I’d been a bit rude. Thankfully, it didn’t bother her. But I realized I putter often, doing small jobs in a relaxed way. And it’s not just with her but during every kitchen-adjacent conversation with anyone, or when I’m on the phone, or when I’m hosting people…you get the idea. While it looks like I’ve tuned out the conversation, moving around and tidying up actually helps me be an active listener.

I love my kitchen. It’s a very active space that is permanently untidy in a homely, practical way. I find cooking and making cocktails a great creative outlet, especially when I’m entertaining. I’ve made my kitchen as ADHD-friendly as possible, keeping the stuff I use most visible and accessible while dancing about.

[Self-Test: Do I Have ADHD? Symptom Test for Adults]

British custom dictates that we offer (force feed) our guests a drink or cuppa tea when they arrive, generally making the kitchen our first port of call. When my girlfriend pops by, she’ll perch on a stool at the breakfast bar (a stool I instinctively dodge or walk into every time I pass it rather than tuck it away). I’ll make the drinks. She’ll talk. I’ll listen. Then, I’ll get an overwhelming urge to reorganize my cupboards.

I’m not uninterested in what she’s saying — that woman could give a blow-by-blow account of a puddle drying, and I would hang on her every word. It’s just that I suddenly notice all these little tasks, and it’s like an itch! I really can’t help myself — I simply must do them then and there.

So, now I find myself standing there, doing my best not to interrupt her and practice my active listening skills without accidentally stabbing myself in the hand with the paring knife I’m ‘discreetly’ polishing.

By the time she finishes telling me about her day, the area around me looks like an IKEA showroom, yet the rest of the kitchen is still scruffy!

[Free Download: How to Focus (When Your Brain Says ‘No’!)]

Then it’s my turn to talk, and all my activity ceases as she has such captivating listening eyes and a radiant smile.

Overall, I think my kitchen tidying is a good ADHD habit. For example, I’ll notice I’ve run out of clean cooking knives, wash the ones I’ve left beside some bowls, and then start cleaning the bowls. The next thing you know, I’ve washed all the pots and pans and blitzed the entire room in a whirlwind of disinfectant wipes, blissfully forgetful of the ice cream quietly melting in the next room, still bereft of the spoon I went to fetch in the first place. Then I’ll realize I’ve forgotten the spoon, go back into the kitchen, get distracted by a spot I missed cleaning as I open the cutlery drawer…and here we go again!

Is this an ADHD thing or something that everyone else does?

Active Listening: Next Steps

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