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  • Kim Meninger

Overcoming Self-Doubt Caused by Learning Disabilities

Updated: May 12, 2023

Overcoming Self-Doubt Caused by Learning Disabilities


Welcome to the Impostor Syndrome Files! In this episode, Kim is joined by Alex Gilbert, a coach and consultant who specializes in helping adults with learning disabilities. Alex shares her personal experience with ADHD and dyslexia in the workplace and discusses the self-doubt she faced when working in unsupportive environments. She also shares how she now helps professionals to set themselves up for success in the workplace.

What people do not know

Having been diagnosed with learning disabilities at 8 years old, Alex grew up throughout her education with support that helped her navigate her studies. When she transitioned to the workplace, however, she no longer had access to the resources she had come to rely upon. A theme throughout the episode is how to communicate with one another to ensure a safe and supportive working environment. These environments not only benefit those with learning disabilities but everyone in the workplace.

Don’t be your own villain

Alex shares that most people with ADHD do not see it as their “superpower” because of the challenges that come with it. She, however, believes that those with learning disabilities have great strengths. Rather than exploit our weaknesses, we should all believe in ourselves and what makes us unique.

About Alex Gilbert

Alex Gilbert is a New Yorker, a Mets fan, a yogi, and a brunch enthusiast. She also has dyslexia and ADHD. After spending her career working in leadership development, she decided to start a consulting and coaching business that will help adults with learning disabilities and/or ADHD like herself who have been struggling in their careers. Her business, Cape-Able Consulting, was created to help them navigate their day-to-day workloads so that they feel supported and are able to reach their highest potential. Her biggest goal in creating Cape-Able Consulting is to change the stigma surrounding learning disabilities/ ADHD by reminding people what they are Cape-able of.

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Outline of the episode:

[01:45] What people do not know [04:50] The transition from education to a work environment [08:58] Awareness for adults getting diagnosed with learning disabilities [11:17] Broadly characterizing the symptoms of ADHD [14:50] The challenges and how to negate them [19:12] How to communicate about your “weaknesses” [27:39] Asking important questions to find the right environment or footing [33:30] How to start the conversation with someone who might need support [38:28] Best practices and best principles for people who might have ADHD

And many more!

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Connect with Alex at…

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Transcript:

Kim Meninger Welcome, Alex, I am really excited to be here today, I can’t wait to have this conversation. And before we jump in, I’d love to invite you to introduce yourself.

Alex Gilbert Thank you so much for having me. Yes, I mean, my story of impostor syndrome really comes from being diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD. And I was really privileged to be diagnosed at eight years old. And I had all kinds of resources all the way through college. But what a lot of people don’t understand is that when you graduate from college, all of the resources that you had growing up, if you were really able to have any of those resources, don’t exist in the workplace. And I was struggling with my mental health, I didn’t know how to manage my day-to-day, I didn’t know how to talk to my bosses. I was a mess and I constantly felt like I was going to fail, because I wasn’t set up for success, quote, unquote, but I was the person who was set up to succeed because I had all these resources. So I have really struggled with this my whole life. And this is also something that I’ve wanted to focus on for a while because I’ve been working in program and leadership development for over a decade. And I’ve been doing it with this lens of supporting people who have learning disabilities under ADHD because we think so differently. And we think in ways to simplify things and make it approachable on all different kinds of levels. And so I was laid off from my job to do COVID, and finally started looking back into, I could jump into this again. And then I said, why? The people I want to help the most, who need me the most are not getting the support and are struggling right now with working from home and all of these pieces. So I started Cape-able Consulting, as of 2021.

Kim Meninger Congratulations, what an amazing way to sort of take advantage of a situation that has not been pleasant for many of us, right. I think it’s great that you are able to use this transition period to really reflect on where you can add the greatest value and be of service to others.

Alex Gilbert You know, it’s really interesting, I was thinking about this recently. I mean, I’m from New York, I’ve lived in New York most of my life until you know the pandemic, but my husband and I were living in our 550 square foot apartment for like, 10 years, and that wasn’t working anymore. But we were, we were sitting there and we were so bored. And I was playing this game on my phone. It was one of those Instagram stories, like, ask you random questions. And the questions that most people got was like, What’s your first car? What’s your favorite? You know, food, all these fun questions. I did not get those. I got what’s your dream job? What’s your favorite characteristic about yourself? Who do you idolize? And I sat there and I couldn’t answer a single one of those questions. And I was like, Oh, my God, what am I doing? And then a week later, I was being laid off. And I was like, okay, these were the signs I needed to say I was not living the way I wanted to, or intentionally about any of those things. And if I couldn’t answer it, it meant this wasn’t where I was supposed to be anymore. So it really did work mysteriously in the right way for me.

Kim Meninger That’s amazing. I want to go back to what you were talking about because that was a really powerful moment for me when I heard you say that having been diagnosed early and having those structural supports in place helped you to get through college, but then suddenly, all of that goes away when you go into the workplace. And I guess I never thought of yeah, that before.

Alex Gilbert I don’t think a lot of people think about that. I don’t think I thought that at all. I was also because I was such a good advocate for myself, I had also gone to Indiana University, which is a very large university and created a mentor retention program for students with disabilities. And it won all kinds of awards from the city and the university. But it was all about advocating for yourself. So here I was thinking, not only did I know how to advocate, I knew how to teach other people to advocate. But that looks very different in the workplace. Talking to your professors about what kinds of places you need to study or, you know, having flexibility on handing things in or getting that kind of support. What does that look like in the workplace? You know, here, I’m 22 years old, I can’t say, hey, I need my own office when I’m the lowest man on the totem pole to like, focus on what I’m doing. And instead, I end up in a position and a large office that I’m constantly being distracted by and people are dropping things off at my desk and say, I need this in an hour. I didn’t know how to do that. And I’m not saying that other people who graduate from college do. I think, we don’t necessarily teach students how to transition well, but I was so used to having the support of a resource room teacher, or, you know, a in college, it was having a coordinator that I could talk to and say, how can you help me reorganize this and balance it and manage it in my own way? I had no, I had none of that. And that was also why I wanted to do this because I wanted to support people who were in those positions who were really struggling. But it’s also important to think and know that people with learning disabilities and/or ADHD, have so many important skills that organizations and companies should want and do want, and often put themselves in environments where they are not successful. And they’re doing it because they think they need this immediate structure. And what they were used to in school is what they should look for in their, in their workplace, but it’s not how they think. It’s not how they learn, it’s not how they adjust. And they don’t ask for help. And they don’t necessarily talk to their employer about having a disability. I always did, and I, I, on every job interview I ever had, I talked about the fact that I was dyslexic, and had ADHD because I felt like, that’s what made me different. And that’s what made me unique, and why they would want to have somebody who thought differently, but most of my clients don’t, and that’s okay. But by not sharing or advocating for yourself, you struggle, you take on more, and then you feel this, you know, immediate danger of I’m going to fail, people are telling you, you didn’t hand this in on time, or whatever the case was, and 60% of those people get fired from their jobs. And that’s so frustrating. So I really wanted to say to people like 1), you don’t have to be super frustrated in your job, you can actually do something well, but let’s find the right place for you and find the right skill set that you have. And that’s unique and special. But also, you know, how to help you with those transitions, because that’s really hard, no matter what position you’re in.

Kim Meninger Oh, I have so many questions for you. I’m gonna try to go for it my questions. So there are a few things that are coming to mind. For me. Number one is there are the situations that you described where you’ve known for much of your life, struggling with this, and then you’ve transitioned away from resources into a much less structured environment? [Yeah.] What about people who maybe didn’t even know, they had learning disabilities, but because they, there was more structure in the academic environment, they were able to get by, and now all of a sudden, they’re thrown into this world, and they don’t even know to, to claim this. They don’t even know to talk to their boss about it. They’re just suddenly finding themselves struggling in these areas.

Alex Gilbert You just you just put the nail on the head of why more people who are getting diagnosed with ADHD and other kinds of learning disabilities are adults. This is the biggest majority of people who are coming to me. So as people who didn’t necessarily recognize the symptoms, I would also say that girls are far less likely to get diagnosed because it didn’t present itself in the same way that it presented in boys, people of color are far less likely to be diagnosed at a young age. And so again, it doesn’t affect your intelligence. So a lot of people do get by. But that doesn’t mean that they’re not struggling mentally and internally, trying to figure out, why can’t I just sit here and focus on what’s in front of me, it’s like, well, because that’s not how your brain functions, when you want it to. I’m not saying that you can’t sit down and focus on something. It’s also what’s very funny about having attention deficit disorder is the fact that people think you don’t pay attention, when in fact, we’re paying attention to so many different things at one time, that that’s part of the problem, why you can’t focus on one thing at a time. So, you know, most people are being diagnosed now, because they’re in these environments that are unstructured, or they’re struggling with their time management. I think a lot of actually, people were being diagnosed or in pandemic because of Tik Tok. That people were talking about what the symptoms of ADHD look like, in adults, and everyone started watching these videos and saying, Oh, my God, I’ve been experiencing these since I was a kid. And then they have to figure out what’s the next steps for me to get the right support. So most people I’ve been talking to were diagnosed within the last two years, which is kind of crazy.

Kim Meninger If there’s anyone listening who hasn’t seen the Tik Tok videos. Yeah, yeah. What how would you broadly characterize some of the symptoms that you’re talking about?

Alex Gilbert So I’ll specifically talk about ADHD that’s usually what people come to me with and that’s three different types. There’s inattentive, which is usually seen in girls who are kind of like, you look like you’re paying attention, but you were absolutely not paying attention, like in one ear and out the other. You’re kind of all over the place, you might be really disorganized and can’t focus. People who have the hyperactive for girls hyperactive, looks like extra talkative, which they might have had on their report cards for decades. And no one ever said anything because they were really smart, but they could be extra talkative. Whereas boys in school are the ones who are disrupting class and you know, driving the teacher insane, which is why they were taken care of, they were medicated, they were acknowledged, and these girls weren’t, because also, we have very different expectations of how girls should act in class. And so, again, you’re internalizing it, rather than saying, like, this is a problem. And then there’s both a combined version where you are hyperactive and inattentive all at the same time, which is what I have, meaning I could be really hyper in the sense that I could talk a lot, which is why I do a lot of podcasts, and that I could focus, but then there are times where I am just in my own world totally zoned out. And there is nothing that’s happening, and I don’t, you know, it would, it wouldn’t even matter. So it’s a very, very broad description of what that looks like. But that’s generally what it looks like. And a lot of people think, Oh, they’ll say I have ADHD, and they haven’t necessarily gotten a diagnosis. Or they think that if they can’t pay attention to something, then automatically they have ADHD. And here’s what I’m going to say with that. This is the conversation I have a lot. There are a lot of people who are being diagnosed with ADHD in adulthood, and they’re getting diagnosed now. The things that I’ve been describing are symptoms you’ve probably been having, since you were a kid, you could probably pick up on a lot of different symptoms of inattentive, or talkative. Whatever it is that I was describing, for a very extended period of time. We are in a society that likes to be very busy, and take on a lot and manage a lot. Like you can’t have a hobby without making it a side hustle. And therefore you just take on all of these things. So you could be very chronically overwhelmed and burnt out and you can’t focus. And that’s very different from having ADHD. Both are an issue. And both of you could seek out support for and that’s okay. And sometimes I do work with people who don’t necessarily have ADHD or have symptoms of ADHD, but they are just somebody who’s really overwhelmed. And my strategies are helpful to that. But I just, I want to make that distinct difference because people throw it around like, oh, yeah, I’m, I have ADHD, you might but you might not.

Kim Meninger That’s a very important function because I think it’s easy to sort of undermine the experience of somebody who actually has ADHD if we just start using it loosely in these ways. I’m curious what you personally and maybe reflecting on what your, your clients have shared with you find most challenging about the traditional workplace structure?

Alex Gilbert How long do you have? All of it, I, whoever decided that we needed to be in a nine to five structure, I need to have a word. That is so ridiculous. Um, I don’t know who that works for, if it works for anybody. It certainly does not work for someone with ADHD. And I think that that’s actually been the best part of people being able to work from home during the pandemic. I’m not saying the pandemic has been great, I am saying that if you were going to look at this in a positive element for someone who has a learning disability or ADHD, working from home for a lot of these people has been very helpful. Because it has such a loose structure, you could focus and your quote-unquote, hyper-focus meaning was something that a lot of people with ADHD have, that you could zero in on something, spend three hours, just not moving and focusing on the work in front of you. And that’s the entire week’s worth of work that you’ve just done in three hours. But because we’ve been forced to sit down and focus from nine to five, you don’t take breaks. You don’t make the adjustments. You’re constantly sitting and forced to think when someone else thinks you should, versus doing it when you naturally have those moments of I could focus on everything all at once. But I might take a three-hour break. You know it’s it is very wishy-washy for that, and I’ve talked to a lot of clients about that, it’s like getting to know yourself, what are those moments of, I can hyper-focus on what’s in front of me, or I am so under-stimulated, that me sitting here is not going to happen. Like, I’m not going to be able to do something. What are those moments? And what can you do with them? So does that answer your question? That so that’s one of them. Yeah.

Kim Meninger Yeah. Because one of the things I’m wondering about is, for anybody who doesn’t identify with some of the things that you’re talking about, what can we do to create a more inclusive environment for people who do?

Alex Gilbert So that’s actually one of the other pieces of my business. So I focused, I do coaching one-on-one for individuals who have learning disabilities and ADHD. But I also focus with corporations and organizations to help make a much more inclusive environment, not just for those who have a learning disability or ADHD, but really for everyone, because what I just described during the pandemic, was helpful for everybody, because you had, maybe you had kids at home, and you couldn’t sit at in the same hours, because your kid was doing zoom school, or whatever the case was, or somebody was sick in your family. The best thing you can do, manager to, you know, to employee or, or whatever the scenario is, is talk to somebody about what’s the best way to communicate with you. What are your needs? How can I support you, and vice versa? You know, someone who has a learning disability or ADHD might be able to tell you, and likely could if they were given the opportunity to share this, that they are very good communicators, but time management might be an issue. Could you set up more check-ins with this person? Could you hand them a list of what you’re expecting them to do and when and help them schedule it out? You know, but the manager themselves if they don’t have it might say they these are, what my needs are. And how can we accommodate it and like find the bridge between the two? And I think that a lot of the times, that doesn’t really happen. I think it’s happening significantly more because of the pandemic. And because people had to be so much more flexible. And that’s been helpful. But it’s really about communication, and how can, how can I support you? How can I help you do your job most effectively? And how can I get you what you need, and when.

Kim Meninger So what I’m thinking about too, is everything that you just said, sounds really reasonable and really practical. However, I think a lot of people struggle with, if I tell my manager that I struggle with time management, then they’re going to think that I’m not capable of doing this job. Or they may, in their own minds, maybe they haven’t been diagnosed, maybe they have, and there’s a, there’s a story they’re telling themselves that I’m not good enough because I can’t do this in this way that my manager expects me to do. So I would imagine that there’s a lot of self-doubt, that creeps in here that may lead to suffering in silence, not seeking out resources and help because there’s this fear of outing yourself as having these challenges.

Alex Gilbert 100%. I think that’s a lot of what I talk to people about. And that’s actually why I came up with the company name I spell capable my own way, Cape-able, because I wanted people to feel capable of so many things. And they are, it’s just the fact that you’re not set up to talk about it in a way that is effectively helpful for everyone else. And again, that internal dialogue is so, so awful. And I could tell you again, I had all these resources, and I still struggled with that impostor syndrome or like, Can I do this? Do they even know, you know, how hard this is for me and all of these other pieces. There is an element of fear of, if I say I’m struggling with time management, is my boss gonna think that I’m incapable of my job? Here’s what I’ll say. No one is 100% perfect at every element of their job. End of story. It does not matter if you have a learning disability or ADHD or you don’t, there’s not a single person who is taking a job and it’s like I can do every single aspect of this perfectly. So, lean into the parts that you can do so well. That, you know, this is what you’re focusing on. And here’s where I need support. Everybody needs supports. So you saying I’m extra creative. I’m coming out with all these out-of-the-box ideas I’m going to say for someone who works in media because a lot of people who I work with are creative and do work in type of the media fields. So they’re talking to clients about all these different campaigns that they want to do. But the follow-through is that is the problem of getting it to them on time. The client is only seeing the person who’s coming up with all of these amazing ideas, and is really excited and is engaged with this person. That is valuable. There are other people who are unbelievably skilled at being organized and keeping things in time management, and like getting things out on time. That’s okay. Both have value. And so it’s okay to say, I could use the support on this, when I’m a rockstar in these meetings.

Kim Meninger Yeah, well, and I think that’s where we tend to fall short in how we evaluate ourselves is because we see what we’re not good at, or where we struggle, and we totally lose sight of all of the superpowers that we have.

Alex Gilbert Yeah. And that’s also why I came up with capable. So it’s Cape, as I said, c-a-p-e. And I wanted people to see it as their superpowers because they’re all, there’s so many strengths that you have when you have a learning disability or ADHD. And a lot of people really hate that term that like learning disability, or ADHD is a superpower. But here’s how I focus on it. When you think of a superhero, you think of all of their strengths. Everyone else is thinking of their strengths. The only person who is seeing the thing that they’re not good at, or seeing where they can poke holes is the villain, you have enough villains in your head telling you, you can’t do something. Why are you focused on the one person who’s going to pull that out from you? It’s just not worth it. So how can you lean into those strengths knowing that those exists? I’m not saying that every day is having learning disability or ADHD is great. It is certainly not. There are moments where I can’t focus on anything. And I just feel like I’ve wasted so much time, or I’m frustrated, because I just sent an email that had so many different spelling errors or whatever, and it doesn’t look professional that can exist for but so can… And it’s okay to know that both exist at the same time, but lean into your strengths and be okay with leaning it to your strengths.

Kim Meninger Do you, this is probably part of what you do, I would imagine too, but do you believe that the mainstream, I’m just gonna say, manager, okay, like, let’s just say yeah, which manager understands learning disabilities well enough to a not make a) an inaccurate judgment of somebody who came to them and said, Hey, I want to share this with you and b), understands how to support the person once they share that?

Alex Gilbert I think you just described my first job. Because here I mentioned that I was so open about talking about my dyslexia, ADHD. And I felt like this was a skill. This is also somebody who had all of these resources growing up and who knew how to advocate for themselves in all of these different environments and talking to different professors and everything else. I was so used to people on the other side of the desk understanding what dyslexia and ADHD is understanding the support I needed and how they were going to provide it. Because that’s what the academic world looks like. I was sitting down and saying my first job that this was what I struggled with, and thought that the person on the other side of the desk understood that’s not even close. And this is why I struggled so much in my first job. And why I even went on antidepressants in this first job because I was so stressed out and having so many panic attacks that I would fail because I just didn’t know what else I could be saying or doing or what that look like. You know, I mentioned it was very open office. And I asked if I could get noise-cancelling headphones because I was constantly distracted by all of these people on the phone. And people coming up to my desk. I was the first he’d see when he walked into the office. And he told me no. Which by the way, is illegal. I didn’t know that. But he told me no, because he thought it would be very rude for anyone who was coming into the office to talk to you know… I asked if there were quiet hours, if I could change, if I could adjust my hours of my day so that I could focus at different points of the day and not be as distracted. He also told me no, these are things that are covered by the American Disabilities Act, and I didn’t know these things. So here’s what I say to a lot of my clients who are dealing with a manager who is I’m gonna, I’m using the word unsupportive. And I don’t necessarily mean that your manager is unsupportive, but when you don’t understand, it may feel like they are being unsupportive or that they don’t see you or they don’t see your intent, or something like that. The other part is finding the right environment for you so that you can find the right manager for you, who will give you the support that you’re looking for. You want to go in knowing your strengths. And knowing what your I’m putting this in quotes, weaknesses are that you could use the support on. And you don’t have to say, I have ADHD, or I have dyslexia. Those words don’t need to be thrown out at all. This is what I could use support on, and how can you provide it because I would like to do my job to the best of my ability and go from there. That’s the conversation. That’s the confidence you want to have in these conversations. When it comes to interviewing and making sure you’re finding the right environment. You can ask questions, they go both ways. They want you for the job as much as you want to be in the right job. So I remember I had ended up in a job. So it’s a really awful job. I was only there for like a month and I quit the week of my wedding because it was so bad. But I was so miserable, where I was that I was like, I’m just gonna take the next job. Even though I know all of these things about myself. I didn’t ask any of those questions. So I was like, it’ll be better somewhere else. But what happens is when you don’t ask those questions, is you end up in a place that’s worse. So, you know, I didn’t ask what the office environment looked like when I knew that should have been an issue for me. I didn’t ask what the structure of the day was like, which should have been a red flag that I should have known. There was another piece of the fact that well, there were four people in that position in less than a year. I probably should have asked something like that, you know, how many people have been here before or who was the last person that was in the position and whatever the case was? It was really bad. But the position I found next wasn’t because I knew what questions to ask. When I said, if it was an open office space, would I be able to get noise-canceling headphones? And they were like, Yeah, of course, most people have them. Okay, if I needed to adjust my hours, because I was having a hard time focusing in the space. Is that okay? Yeah, we have people who work all over the country, different hours, that’s not a problem. If the casually like answers are like that, that’s probably the right place for you. So I hope that answered both ends with that.

Kim Meninger Yes. And, I’m so glad to hear you advocating for asking those questions upfront. Because I think a lot of people think it’s inappropriate for me to ask these questions or…

Alex Gilbert No, ask the questions, you need to be in the right place. Because otherwise, you’re not set up for success. Exactly. And

Kim Meninger I always tell people, if it’s not safe for you to ask questions, to ask questions that are important to you in the interview, then is that a place you’re going to want to work?

Alex Gilbert 100% 100%. These are things that like, you don’t know, until you’ve been there and done all of the wrong things. There. But that’s okay. I, I have been through it. It was ugly. And now I’m still here standing. I can tell you what I have effectively learned that would be more helpful.

Kim Meninger So that’s, that’s one of the reasons why I like these conversations is because we’re hopefully helping people not have to learn the hard way. Hopefully, listening or identifying with this and thinking there’s something I can do about this. Yeah, be proactive action. One of the things I want to go back to for a moment is you mentioned talking to your manager and not necessarily using the, the labels of dyslexia. But it sounds like what’s really important is that you understand what support looks like to you, because you can’t count on your manager to know, even if they are super supportive, to necessarily know how to support you. [Correct.] It sounds like you’re advocating for saying this type of support, or this kind of structure has worked well for me in the past, would you be open to my doing this?

Alex Gilbert Yes. And that’s also something that is very hard for people. Because when you have grown up and you’ve been in these very structured environments, you don’t necessarily know yourself very well. You don’t know how you think, or how you learn or what your needs are. And so I talk to a lot of my clients about like getting to know you, what environments do you succeed and a lot of the times what they do naturally is so under their nose, they haven’t been picking up on the fact that they like to start, you know, their day. Let’s say they don’t really want to take on meetings before 10 o’clock because it takes some time to adjust to their day, okay, well, that’s something you should know, like, let’s not schedule 9am meetings is that going to be an issue? You have to get to know yourself. And one of the things that I tell people to do is take a notebook, or use notes in your phone and write a sentence throughout the day. It’s 2:15. And I feel x, if you can track that for like, a couple days. And notice there’s a pattern. Notice what you’re doing or how you’re feeling. And when you’ll tend to pick up on the things that you need in order to advocate for yourself.

Kim Meninger That’s great advice. I think we do have to start with ourselves. And it’s a great point that we often take certain things for granted, and don’t really think about them consciously. And if we’re going to take that to other people, we have to be able to communicate it to ourselves first.

Alex Gilbert Yeah, nobody’s going to know you better than you. And I used to say this to my former boss, who I love, but he also struggled with his ADHD and we would have this conversation, he’s like, Okay, I’m gonna go talk to so and so. And I say, okay, take a step back. What do you want out of this conversation? And what can you effectively ask for that you’ll get the response that you want, because you can go in with the intention of having this conversation. But if you don’t have tangible things that can walk out and say, this is support, and this is what I’m getting, and this is what it looks like. It’s just a conversation. So you need to know with tangible things, what you are going to ask for.

Kim Meninger I want to ask you a question from the flip side. And I, I don’t expect you to be able to speak for everyone on this. But I’m curious what your thoughts are. I’m imagining that there are people listening who manage teams and are thinking, this sounds exactly like so and so on their team. Yeah. But the person has never brought it up. They are, they don’t know whether or not this is something that the person would feel comfortable talking about, is there a way to approach someone on your team, if you suspect that this may be a challenge for them?

Alex Gilbert I actually just had this conversation with somebody, like, yesterday. So that’s really wild that you brought it up. Yes. And this really goes back to the fact that you can communicate what your needs are, and allow them and give them space to feel comfortable to say, This is what my needs are, without having to say, this is something you’re struggling, you can open up the conversation and say, Look, I know we keep coming back to the same thing of, you know, the deadlines are getting missed, or, you know, you’re not, you’re not effectively communicating with the rest of the team in a timely manner. Or you, I keep seeing mistakes here. I wouldn’t necessarily start with all of the negatives, you start with what they’re doing really well, knowing those are the things that they struggle with and say, How can we make this shift that will help support you in a better way, and come up with some tactics that you think might be effective for them, given what the position is, but also allow them to give them space, to also say this, this is something that would be helpful for me. The other thing, and the conversation I was having yesterday was this manager was saying, like, I keep having the same conversation over and over again. And I don’t think they’re getting what I mean, because they’re not doing this. And they’re not really thinking through the process. Or they’re looking at this very, like linear and I needed to be much more fluid or whatever the case was. And I said, pull the reins back and say, can you explain to me in your own words, what you understand about this project and what we’re doing. They understand so much more than you think they do. But there’s pieces missing, and they’ve been afraid to ask, but by giving them the space to talk about what they do understand, they might even be able to fill in the holes, when they weren’t necessarily able to physically fit, fill in the holes, writing it down by talking it out, they’re thinking through it more, you can help them fill in the holes. They need to be able to explain it. And sometimes they’re afraid to do that. So those are a few different things that I would say.

Kim Meninger I love that because I think you, you bring up a lot of important points in that example is, first of all, to create space, for an open conversation, to be willing to ask questions, to not make assumptions. I think oftentimes it’s simple to assume that, oh, this person isn’t as committed to the work as somebody else or, you know, they’re not listening. They’re being defiant, is that right? There’s all kinds of ways that we could negatively frame that without a true understanding of what’s going on. So creating the space, giving the other people encouragement to really think about what would work better for me, what’s working, what’s not working? And what, what does support look like to me? I think is a really powerful part of that process as well. And I think you, you identified the big keyword here, which is fear, like they, it’s either, if you’re not meeting the deadlines, and they’re not meeting the expectations that you’ve outlined, nobody wants to feel like they’re failing or not meeting expectations.

Alex Gilbert No, and they’re probably getting so many more emails about the fact they haven’t handed something in. And they’re terrified of, you know, having that meeting with their boss or having that meeting with the team because they know they, quote, unquote, didn’t do what they were supposed to. And that is so scary. And again, it’s not that they don’t understand what they have to do. It’s that, sometimes looking at the tasks as a full picture is really overwhelming, because someone who has ADHD, or learning disability can see the whole picture and the little details all at once. So sometimes seeing the like, the little details and the big picture all at once and knowing they’re the only person that could do it is so overwhelming that it’s hard to sit down and do it. Because they know it will take them 10 times longer to do those little tasks. And so they procrastinate, and they don’t want to do it because it’s really scary. And it’s also a lot of times why they say they don’t get it. And they’ll just say like, broadly, I don’t understand what I’m supposed to do. Yes, you do. Yes, you do. And that’s why I always try and say like, let’s start with what you do know, and what you can explain. Because it becomes less overwhelming. Say, Well, I understand that great. Like, I’m so glad you understand that like, Okay, what’s the next part? So yes, I think that’s, like a piece of that.

Kim Meninger So if people are listening and thinking to themselves, Oh my gosh, she’s describing me perfectly and I don’t feel like I have a lot of support. Or I’m, I’m really scared because I don’t trust that my manager is going to be as supportive as I would want them to be. What’s the first step they should think about? Is it reaching out to someone like you? Is it, is there another resource they should consider? Like, what would be step one when they when they’re done listening to this conversation?

Alex Gilbert So I’m going to give you a full-fledged answer, which is, the reason my answer is this, because this is my coaching theory, which is best practices versus best principles, meaning best practices, you’ve seen the five best tips to effectively communicate in the office about your ADHD. And these should work for everyone. They’re made for a very small market of people, they work for some people, they don’t work for everybody. You’ve tried all five of them, none of them seem to work, you try another list that has 10 things and you keep, quote-unquote, failing over and over again, because they were not meant for you. So I like to think of this is best principles, meaning we have the same goal in mind, how we get there is gonna make sense to you. And my answer of what comes next is really up to you. Some people start with talking to their doctor, because they want to get official testing and figure out what that looks like with psychological testing. Some people want to address their, maybe their trauma of having a learning disability or ADHD, not understanding it not understanding their anger, or their frustration, or their anxiety or depression. And knowing how all of those impact. The next thought another step could be reaching out to a coach like myself, who could help you with the day-to-day tasks and how you manage in a way that actually makes sense to you. If you take any of those steps, there is no such thing as taking the wrong first step, any of those are going to be effective, it’s just a matter of what feels the most comfortable to you. And when you start, if you take those steps, you’re taking a step to help yourself. And all of those are great.

Kim Meninger I’m so grateful that you answered the question the way you did, because as I was asking you that question, I was realizing in my mind that I was asking it in a very, in a way that was not aligned with the way the with our conversation, right? I was trying to get you into this very structured answer.

Alex Gilbert I, you know what, I don’t fit in structure. And I don’t try but also I would say that was actually something I learned about myself in this whole process. And I think even starting my, my business, I was working, I’ve been working with a business coach, and I said I needed this very intense structure because that’s what my life looked like before that and I did that for like a day and I was like what am I doing? I hate this. So yeah, I don’t fit in structure and I’ve now realized that oh yeah, I wasn’t gonna answer straightforward way.

Kim Meninger I love it. No, though. Yes. Alex, you’ve shared so many amazing insights and great strategies for people from different sides of this right? I think it’s really, it’s really important that we talked about it from the perspective of the person who’s struggling and who’s asking these questions, but also from the people around them who may not understand right? They want to be supportive, but don’t know-how. I know you do this as your business. For anybody wants to connect with you, follow up with you, how do they get in touch?

Alex Gilbert So a few different ways, you can go to my website directly, which as I mentioned, it’s Cape-able Consulting, so it’s capeableconsulting.com or you can find me on Facebook and LinkedIn at Cape-able Consulting, LLC, again, Cape C-A-P-E, or on Instagram and Tik Tok as I am Cape-able, so C-A-P-E. So any of those you can reach out to me and we can figure out the best right step for you. I offer something called a declutter your mind session, which is a 30-minute free session, where we, it’s like a brain dump. You throw everything out on the table that you’re really trying to figure out makes the most sense for you. How can we put it back in an order that is effectively helpful for you, and then we go from there. So feel free to reach out if you’d like to have one of those sessions, or just reach out for specific questions.

Kim Menninger I’m here. That’s wonderful. And we’re going to put those links into the show notes as well for anybody who’s interested. Thank you again, Alex. This has been incredibly helpful.

Alex Gilbert Thank you for having me.

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