Why You Need to Stop Saying “I Don’t Care”

Emily Kingsley
6 min readMar 6, 2020

As soon as you say it, it’s not true.

Photo by Ilyuza Mingazova on Unsplash

I Don’t Care

Three little words. Fewer than a dozen letters. A phrase that rolls off our tongues so easily we say it to loved ones, coworkers, waitresses and ourselves without thinking about what we really mean.

It’s a phrase that stands in for a range of ideas and emotions. It can express confusion, disinterest, open-mindedness, awkward admiration or malicious intent.

At best, using a phrase with such an unclear meaning is pointless. At worst, it results in miscommunication and conflict. Which is why you should make up your mind to stop saying “I don’t care” and say what you really mean instead.

“I don’t care” doesn’t mean you’re easygoing and polite

I took a road trip from California to Vermont in a borrowed Honda Civic with my friend Cory. As we were crossing into Arizona, he asked me what I wanted to have for lunch.

When I answered, “I don’t care,” he slammed on the brakes and pulled over.

“I don’t care means fuck you,” he said. “Show some goddamn courtesy and give me an answer.”

We talked our way across the country on the trip, but that one little exchange is the only thing I can remember.

At the time, I thought he just wanted me to find a cheap taco place. But in the years since, I’ve learned over and over again he was right in a way that was more universal than lunch. And I’ve learned not to say “I don’t care” when I really mean something else.

You might think you’re being easygoing and polite when you say “I don’t care.” Actually, you’re not. Not caring is an action, not a statement. It’s something you show through complete disregard. The things you don’t think about, talk about or look at — those are the things you don’t care about.

The things you talk about are the things you do care about. So in a weird reverse-twist way, as soon as you say “I don’t care,” you’re showing that the opposite is true.

It’s taken me some time to see all the ways my friend Cory was right. But time and again, I hear his words echo in my head.



Emily Kingsley

Always polishing the flip side of the coin. Live updates from the middle class. e.kingsleywhalen@gmail.com. She/her.