Manners 101


Proper office etiquette can be confusing and for people with ADHD it can be a problem. Some things that seem obvious to everybody else may not be so obvious to you. Social skills and using appropriate manners might be baffling to folks with ADHD. Maybe you missed the memo on manners when you were growing up so let’s go back to basics for a refresher course.

Here are the basics:

• Say hello when you enter a room. Smile.
• Say good morning.
• Say goodbye or goodnight when you are leaving or someone else is leaving.
• Say please and thank you.
• Say bless you when someone sneezes.
• Say excuse me when you get up from the table.
• Smile, wave or nod to acknowledge other people.
• Say something nice to your co-workers every now and then. Compliments are free and people love them. Keep them simple. “Nice haircut.” “Great color on you.” “Terrific presentation.”

Find entry points to group conversations. If you’re at a work event look for groups of one, three or five to join. It’s harder to join a group of two or four. When you join the group wait for an appropriate time to speak. If you interrupt the flow of conversation it might be awkward. Listen to what people are talking about before you comment. If you’re not sure what they’re talking about you can ask.

Practice being concise. How can you say what you want to say in two sentences? Stick to useful information rather than interesting. ADHD brains love to collect interesting information but you don’t have to share it with everybody all the time because some people will find this habit annoying, inappropriate and a waste of their time.
Try to say what you need to say in two or three sentences. If you think you’re talking too much you probably are. Stay on topic and keep it short.

Agree with people, “I think John expressed that very well and I couldn’t have said it better or agree more.” You don’t need to come up with a different way to say the same thing if you really don’t have anything new to add.

When you start practicing social skills you should expect it to feel awkward at first, just fake it till you make it. You are intentionally doing something different so it might throw you off balance at first. These are called social skills and skills are developed over time.

Pick one skill and practice it until it becomes a habit. Then try practicing another skill. You may not see immediate results but you will see steady improvement.

Kathy Sussell is an ADHD coach in Brooklyn, NY. She helps teens, college students and adults with ADHD with time management, planning and prioritizing, getting started with and finishing tasks, organizing paper and objects and improving social skills. She is the organizer of the ADHD Women’s Meetup Group that meets every month in downtown Brooklyn. For more information visit her website: or email Kathy at

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