So why do I keep saying I don’t?
My 18-year daughter just got her driver’s license. After coming home from her shift the other day, she told me that she was going to the lake the next day with her friend around Noon. The immediate response out of my mouth was, ‘Ok. I don’t care.’ What she said next made me stop and realize what I’d said.
Ok. I just thought you’d want to know.
What was in my head was not that I didn’t care. What I meant when I said ‘I don’t care’ was “sounds good, thanks for letting me know and be safe.” What I actually said gave the impression that I actually did not care what she did or where she was and potentially that I was annoyed that she was even telling me her plans.
This led me to start thinking about when I start using ‘I don’t care’ as a positive response to something where I intend to say yes or that I’m just indifferent. I then started thinking about what damage my response could cause over the long term of its use. I also realized that I started using this phrase with my daughter and my husband and had started using it professionally.
My opinion is often asked on a variety of topics, and usually, it is requested along with my choice of a direction or path to take. In haste, I very often answer with ‘I don’t care.’ What I mean when I say that are things such as:
- I have no preference, both paths you’ve lined out make sense, pick the one you think is best.
- That makes sense, go ahead and move forward with that.
- While I don’t favor one path over another, I’d recommend this.
I regularly remind people to pause and think before they speak or give a response to a question. In my profession, we often work with clients in a services-based capacity; therefore, we must be mindful of our words and actions. Yet, at the same time, I dole out this advice I don’t always do it myself, which leads to the less desirable response of ‘I don’t care.’
Every day (nearly), we have conversations about who is doing what, who is going where, what we’re having for dinner, etc. Especially in these COVID times, when we’re all home together all the time, I feel overburdened with decision making. Not that we didn’t have these conversations pre-COVID, but now both living and working from home, it feels more constant. There is no separation between my workplace and my house to take a moment to breathe before I’m into the next category of decision making.
Given this, as I look back on the last week and even the previous months, I think I’ve responded with ‘I don’t care’ more often than not. The reality is, though, that I do care. I do know what I want for dinner, I do want to know where my kid is off to so that if something happens, I have an awareness of where she was supposed to be, and I do care what we watch on TV. So why do I keep saying I don’t?
In part, it is because of what I mentioned above; I’m just tired of making decisions. On the other hand, it is because it is an easy answer. It takes less time to say ‘I don’t care’ than it does to say:
- I’d like this for dinner, but if you’re not feeling it, we can come up with another option.
- I’m a little tired of watching this show, let’s try something else.
- Thanks for letting me know what you’re up to, I appreciate it.
I tend to wind up frustrated when we can’t get to decisions as a family unit quickly, but this recent epiphany now makes me realize the response of ‘I don’t care’ definitely doesn’t help change that.
I’m not saying what I mean.
I’m going to stop saying, ‘I don’t care.’ Realizing now that this seemingly simple response opens the door to so much interpretation, I want to control the impression I leave. For a variety of reasons:
I want people to know what I think even if it isn’t groundbreaking but does give a definitive answer.
I don’t want my daughter to say, ‘I don’t care.’ I want her to feel freedom in answering simple questions with an opinion.
I don’t want my family members to feel that I am not genuinely concerned about their needs and actions.
I want my coworkers to continue leveraging my time to support them, and I don’t want them to feel their time was wasted coming to me for thoughts and responses.
I want to break the cycle of easy answers. If I really don’t have a preference one way or another, I want to use the right words to convey that.
Most importantly, I want to carry forward a loving relationship with my daughter, and I don’t want to build up the walls we’ve worked so hard to break down through an accidental, lazy, simple statement. I do care, deeply, what she does and how she lives her life. And I want her to feel like telling me and sharing her stories with me.
So, I’m going to stop saying what I actually do not mean and start saying what I do. Are you saying you don’t care, or are you saying what you mean?