It’s funny to me how Americans are the only country that asks, “How are you” and expects only the simple reply, “good”.
We don’t really want to hear how your day is going or how you actually feel. We just want you to help contribute to our false sense of contentment with the world around us—I’m good, you’re good, everyone’s good.
It’s weird, but it’s our way of acknowledging each other’s existence while also displaying a teeny tiny ounce of concern—very teeny.
Some squirrels struggle with this teeny tiny act as well as showing common courtesy for others.
I’ll be the first to admit I’m one of those squirrels. Sometimes I’ll walk right past someone and not say anything. Ok, more than sometimes—a lot of times.
Why do we struggle?
We struggle because asking how someone is doing, is a rule! A rule for being courteous that should be handled by our executive function—which we lack. So, to a neurotypical—NT, we can come off as rude or uncaring. When really, it’s quite the opposite.
The executive function develops in early childhood and it keeps developing into the mid-20s.
Allow me to personify.
Imagine a tiny person behind a desk in your brain. This is your executive function. It’s like your own personal secretary letting you know what to do and when to do it. This little secretary helps with prioritizing tasks, self-monitoring, self-control etc.
So, when I picture an adult NT’s secretary, I picture a tiny person working really hard behind his little desk. This tiny person wears a suit and carries a briefcase. He has a calendar, an IPad, pens, pencils. Colored Post-it notes adorn his desk coordinated to prioritize important dates and general everyday tasks.
There’s probably a Post-it that reads, “How you doin” specifically as a reminder to greet people! There are ones for congratulating people, showing sympathy for deaths or heartache, celebrating birthdays. The NT is on top of acknowledging all their peers milestones and remembering greetings because of their tiny amazing brain secretary.
Now, the adult ADHD’s secretary is probably dressed in sweats. Carries a backpack—mainly for snacks. Their desk has papers scattered everywhere. On top of the papers are a video game system, a television, their cell phone and some crayons-you know, to color that unicorn coloring book.
I imagine everything they need to do written in blue crayon on the back of a cable bill—this may or may not be entirely “imagined”. There’s no calendar or IPad. The Post-it’s are pasted on the wall behind the secretary in the shape of a large heart.
The personification of the executive function in this blog is just to help you readers get a clearer understanding of the differences between the NT and ADHD executive brain function. It’s just so you understand exactly why you may have to send your ADHD friend four text reminders, an email, call them the day before AND leave a voicemail for anything that may be important.
Back in the day I could NEVER remember my best friend worked on Saturday. I would call her house each and every Saturday and her mom would laugh and say, “No Dana, she works, remember?” Of course I didn’t remember! My secretary was playing Tetris when that memo was given. It wasn’t as funny when I almost missed the baby shower for her oldest son. Luckily, I have a VERY forgiving, patient and understanding best friend.
NT people gather close to me and listen.
Your ADHD friend, spouse, acquaintance likes you very much. They just struggle with the rules because their secretary is an incompetent child. Go easy on them if they continue to call during work hours because they can’t remember your schedule—I mean to be fair, they can’t remember their own schedule. Don’t get upset when you get a gift from CVS pharmacy because they picked it up on the way to your party they forgot about. Be patient when they walk past and stare blankly at you. They aren’t being rude, their secretary is out for lunch.
All of the rules for being courteous—remembering important dates, congratulating people, greeting people, offering to help before being asked. All of these rules are buried under loose papers, crayons and snacks on the ADHD brain secretary’s desk. Sometimes they surface, but most of the time they get pushed aside or lost.
We’re trying. We are. Just have patience, understanding and know we really do want to know “how you doin”.