Tag Archives: decisions

“I don’t have a preference”

“I don’t know”, “I’m indifferent”, “I don’t mind”. I say these things a lot. Sometimes it irritates people, because they think I’m holding back my opinion for some reason. But when I say things like this (well, when I say anything!) I really mean it.

I have quite strong opinions about some things. Even some things which people think are weird or silly, or things people think are too big and complicated to have a simple opinion about. Put it down to ‘black-and-white thinking’.

Because of this, I’m also really good at knowing when I have an opinion and when I don’t. I don’t really have to pause and think about something carefully before working out whether I have an opinion. I might have to think for a while to work out what my opinion is – especially if I have to make a decision. But otherwise, I can answer very quickly when my answer is “I don’t know” or “I don’t care”.

It’s as if my ability to have an opinion or preference about something is digital – whereas for most people it’s analogue.

I don't have a preference 1

 

The red line is me, and the blue line is most other people. I go from “not caring at all”, to “caring completely” in one big jump. Whereas most people have a gradual progression from “not caring at all”, to “caring a little bit”, “caring a fair amount”, and so on.

This graph explains why there are some things I don’t care about at all, which most people do care about a reasonable amount. And also why there are some things that people think I care too much about. And it explains why it’s very easy for me to work out whether or not I have an opinion on something. Which side of the line does it fall on? Whereas other people have to decide what level of opinion is worth expressing or worth doing something about – halfway up? A quarter? Three quarters? It must be a nightmare!

Of course it’s sometimes annoying to have a digital experience of opinions and preferences, too. Sometimes people ask what I’d prefer and I say that I don’t mind and they just refuse to believe me. “You must have some preference!”, “Even just a little bit?”, “It’s OK for you to choose what you want!”.

Sometimes not having a preference makes decisions a lot harder – maybe this is why it takes me a long time to make decisions in the first place? It would be a lot easier to decide how to do things if I had some kind of emotional response to the options. That’s probably part of the reason that I rely on habit and routine, too. It’s a lot easier than contorting my digital thinking to try and formulate an opinion about something minor.

And then there’s all the things on the other side of the line – the “caring too much” side. Because I often don’t express an opinion, it sometimes surprises people when I do. And they think I’m exaggerating or joking or being silly for caring so much about something.

It seems like the ‘conclusion’ for this is going to be much the same as usual: communication and acceptance will improve anything! If people understand and believe me when I say that I do or don’t care, then… everything would be fine, I guess.

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Decisions

People often tell me I’m a very decisive person. My parents say that when I was a kid, I would carefully choose the toy I wanted to buy, and then that was it – decision made. No further questioning or deliberating, and I would never change my mind.

I’m still much the same now. I sometimes take a long time to make a decision – especially if it’s something very important, but also for seemingly small and insignificant things. I take great care to weigh out pros and cons and work out the logical reasoning to make the right choice. But once I’ve made the decision, it’s final. The other possibilities get deleted from my thoughts and are no longer up for consideration. I never wonder whether I should have made a different choice, or what might have changed if I’d decided differently.

I think this could be something to do with imagination. I have trouble making decisions because I can’t imagine the outcomes very well. I can’t just ‘intuitively’ know what I want or what is best, I have to use logic to work things out. But that means that once the decision is made, I still can’t really imagine the alternative outcomes. Obviously I can think “If I’d chosen to cook pasta then I would be eating that instead of noodles right now”, or “If I had applied to Bath University then I would be searching for accommodation in a different city”.

But beyond that, I can’t really imagine myself in the alternative situation. That means there’s no real way for me to imagine how the present or future would be different if I made a different choice in the past. There’s nothing to regret, so I can’t really worry about it.

Unfortunately this doesn’t translate into being free from anxiety. The fact it’s hard for me to imagine myself in future situations means I worry about them more. I try to plan and prepare for all eventualities, but I can’t actually put myself in the future in my ‘mind’s eye’, so I never feel like my preparation is sufficient.