Being laid-back and not taking things personally: pros and cons
This is not advice, more general emotional intelligence/awareness stuff that I'm learning about and maybe it will be helpful to you too. (And I'm talking about with your loved ones. That is, I'm talking about not taking personally things that actually are personal.)
I'm an anxious-ish person with some fairly specific preference for how I want things in my daily life to be and I tend to date people who are pretty easy-going and happy to roll along with that. This is a common pattern; I'm sure you've seen it or are in it.
And I think it's probably common to assume 'not taking things personally' and being easy-going is the better way to be. With strangers, yes, absolutely, but with loved ones it's more of a trade-off.
Apart from trivial stuff, like you will probably get to sit in the seat you want in a restaurant because they don't care (back to the wall, not in line with the door so you don't feel a draft when it opens), being around someone who doesn't take things personally is incredibly safe and liberating (safe and liberating are basically the same: when you feel safe, you can do/say whatever because you're not afraid of the consequences). You can share how you're feeling even if it's difficult because it probably won't hurt their feelings or bring down their mood. It's hard to overstate how powerful that is.
It can feel like they don't care, which creates disconnection and is a barrier to intimacy. "How can you be so relaxed about this - doesn't this matter to you? And if it doesn't matter, does that mean I don't matter to you?" (For sure do not phrase things like that out loud! But it's how the thinking runs). Again, I'm not talking about trivial things, but things that really are personal and serious. When you're panicking about something in your relationship, and your partner is not, it can feel like they don't really care if your relationship is under threat. Which is obviously super-painful, or would be if it were true. But it's more that they feel confident that your relationship is strong and you'll be able to work things out.
I don't have a solution for this, it's just something that's likely to cause friction, but less friction if you can assume good faith from each other etc etc.
What I will say is that it's absolutely deadly to continue thinking of yourself as a laid-back person if you're not. It's okay to not be. But it's not very culturally appealing, so you might really have buried the fact that you're not, if you're not. If you find yourself saying "I'm usually pretty laid-back, except when..." then, maybe there's an 'except when', or maybe you are not that laid-back, which is okay?
This advice column by best advice columnist Captain Awkward is about it (scroll past the first bit):
"Between me and the words “We’re not having sex enough for me” or “Please don’t talk to me that way” or “I can’t come home for Christmas this year, sorry” stretched Zeno’s paradox of infinitely dividing space. I could not step into that space and say the words with my mouth and listen to the words the other person might say. I placed this weird value on being laid back and easygoing, like that is something you should always try to be. I think I’ve told people “It’s really hard to offend me or hurt my feelings, so don’t worry about (that really awful thing you just said).” My relationships with others existed in a state of almost theological pre-forgiveness.
"What I found out in therapy is that I was not all that laid back. I found out that I have a lot of rules for how I want other people to treat me." Read full post
This piece was originally published in The Whippet #32 – subscribe to get the next one in your inbox!
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