Synonyms for “nonchalance:” apathy, complacence indifference, unconcern, torpor
Antonyms for “nonchalance:” concerned, interested, motivated
A parent came to talk to me about her 13 year old son, Aaron. Previously “diagnosed” with ADHD of the inattentive variety, various stimulant medications have been tried with him without much benefit.
“Look,” the mom said, “I don’t really know if he’s ADD, the doctor spent about 15 minutes with us. I do know he’s nonchalant. It’s like he’s just indifferent and it’s driving me up the wall.”
(Wow… “nonchalant”….that’s a word I don’t hear very often, certainly not used in clinical terms or descriptions. It’s funny how words fall out of favor.)
Upon meeting Aaron, I know exactly what the mom is saying. It was a very long hour trying to find out what his point of view was on the topic. It’s not easy to talk to someone who shows, indifference, apathy unconcern and torpor (i.e., nonchalance).
Essentially, Aaron had little to say with a fair amount of shrugging.
“All he cares about is his Xbox,” his mom almost shouted in the session.
The mom’s frustration brought to mind a famous short story I had read many years ago by Herman Melville, called “Bartleby, the Scrivener.” (“Scrivener,” talk about a dated word.)
As I recall, Bartleby was the 19th century version of a paralegal working in a law office. Whenever he was asked to do something by his office superior, Bartleby had a standard response – “I would prefer not to.” Bartley basically did nothing and just stared out the window ignoring his boss with nonchalant indifference.
This, “I’d prefer not to,” position made Bartleby’s boss bonkers.
A mom of a 17 year old I am working with asked her son to stop what he was doing for about an hour to help pull weeds in preparation of some landscaping.
Now, of course, the 17 year old felt he couldn’t help because he was engaged in a very important activity (that he had been doing for the previous nine hours ) “Grand Theft Auto” on his Xbox and he basically told her, “No, I’d prefer not to.”
With his stance her anger thermometer rapidly rose.
Psychologists and other behavioral types will have all kinds of systems to try and get the motivation going in the right direction, but it’s a tough battle.
If you have a Bartleby type my best advice is to try and side-step the control battles that inevitably ensue, as challenging as this may be may be.
While not getting into a control battle, you could also say to your 17 year old Bartleby in very direct tones, “Look, you either pull the weeds or I am going to lock your Xbox away in a our safe until you have done what I asked to my satisfaction. It’s your choice.”
Go buy a safe if you don’t have one.
They come in handy when you need them.
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