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Carlo Eustaquio

Indifference is a stronger word to use than detachment or being objective if the reality is something that's truly subjective. Maybe it's a kind of "mindfulness", a self-aware decision to counteract a strong reaction or urge to react. Just be indifferent with the situation. With the knowledge, of course, of one's maturity in accepting that humans aren't permanently monstrous or perhaps, any assumption made was not the absolute truth.


I am working in a very stressed environment where things are blown out of all proportion and continually changed, going nowhere. Everyone is miserable and it is affecting me. I need to learn how to become detached and prevent it from affecting me. How can I do this? Changing jobs is not an option at this time.


wow; this falls under the category of "it's not my calf" Think about it; mama cows do not bother with those calves that aren't there. Don't waste energy on things that "aren't your calf"

Wes Balda

Chris Lowney wrote Heroic Leadership and included a great explanation of the Jesuit idea of indifference. His website is at


I think there's another elephant in the room. In the spirit of looking the elephant in the eye, I will speak personally:

If I had my 'druthers, I'd make my living writing books. As writing books takes a while to make a living from (if one achieves it at all), I have to do something else for money, for an indefinite period of time.

Given that reality: If I had my 'druthers, there's no question I'd rather bartend than do what I do now, writing for large corporations. I could care a whit about status, the supposed intellectual stimulation, or keeping company with "people of my caliber." I would prefer physical labor to non-physical labor.

Nope. I work for money. Period. Am I conscientious about quality? Yes. But, sorry, I do not CARE. I cannot imagine that I'm the only one - and not just the only one to have a romantic dream. I know many a person who'd rather bartend!

I think this actually contributes to the bullying. So much of the status stuff, disguised as "intellectual stimulation," or "important work," or "grown-up jobs" has shame at its root. It's that shame that gets taken out on others as bullying.


Talleyrand's advice to the young diplomat is apt here: "Above all, not too much zeal."

We can all agree that a passionate asshole is essentially still just an asshole.

Perhaps "detachment," in the Buddhist or some other sense, might be more accurate and/or acceptable?


I think we can think of times when we've taken a stand on something, and later think WTF was I thinking? Often that's a mother having a fight with her daughter and then the daughter gets into an accident. Which, to me, is wasted regret. Relationships (the best ones) endure conflict and endure it well.

"In order to see flaws in the plan, respect the input of others, and maintain an open mind, a little indifference can go a long way." I disagree; indifference leads to snap decisions, the more you care about something, the more you make an effort to "get it right". or maybe that's just me.


thanks ..


Hi! To the psychology intern on this posting with a government job--hang in there!! I went through the same deal as an intern last year. To everyone else, including Dr. Sutton, thanks for all your comments! Detachment works, even though it's really hard to do. I finally found a good job where I don't feel abused. Abuse is never OK.

Laura Rivera

Although one of the antonyms of passion is indifference, that word usually has negative connotations, such as a lack of importance. Instead of indifference perhaps unbiased, impartial or objective might work better to describe taking a step back or looking at a situation from another perspective or from the "outside", although no one is free of these later two. Perhaps simply "listening with humility" might also work as might "unselfish passion."


Hi! I'm a psychology intern at a government job, and stumbled across your website. It's been so helpful. I'm going through the hazing phase of getting my Ph.D. right now, and some of my psychologist supervisors have been major assholes. I can't believe so much racism and sexism exists in a workplace, and I have seen it whether or not I've been a target at that moment. It makes me angry, and today I was insulted by my supervisor as having too much of an ego whereas the other day he said I have no self-esteem. Still working on the emotional detachment. These are the people who are supposed to get human behavior, but it's unbelievable how many are total ASSHOLES! Thanks for listening to me vent.

Holly Brady

Ha! Bob: I just finished a mandatory two hours taking the Stanford sexual harassment course online... and I got a hearty laugh out of your comment about it. Now I know exactly how not to harass my one female coworker.


Indifference: Such an important lesson for me as a nonprofit worker. Nonprofits are full of very passionate people, but often short on cool minds that examine their work in a thoughtful way. Nonprofits often run on bursts of adrenalin, which can get in the way of clear thinking and often wears the staff out.

I just turned 40, and looking back at my career thus far, I can't believe all the dramas of my workplaces when I was younger. You'd think the fate of the world rested on our shoulders.

I realized a few years ago that I was reacting so strongly because I couldn't change important things, leaving me deeply frustrated. I learned that once I'm spending so much time all fired up, it's probably well past my time to leave. I half jokingly call it my "Serenity Prayer" moment (... accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference).

I'm better now at keeping the passion for my speeches, grassroots organizing and fundraising pitches, and staying more "indifferent" about the day to day stuff. I chose which approach best suits the situation. Life's way less exhausting this way.

peter vajda

John says: " think the use of the word indifference here is potentially problematic as to some it connotes a wanton lack of concern. Isn't disinterest perhaps closer to what you and Ann are talking about?"

Not sure who "you" is, but, for me, I'd prefer the descriptor "detachment". Why?

Detachment, for me, means not being involved energetically, psychically or emotionally, but, being a watcher, observer and witrness to what's going on aroud me.

In this way, from this place, often "right knowing" and "right action" can arise and result in actions which are positive. From a place of detachment one can often discern root cause issues of surface tensions and can then proactively choose to look for solutions.

Indifference is a reactive choice which, again for me, points to a conscious choice "not to care" and often this choice is made from a place of negativity, resentment,resistance and overt or covertor silent anger (often subtle or a blind spot), which results is a passive-aggresiveness, silent and deep, which nevertheless results in a corticol chemical drip that adversely affects the mind, body and spirit.

To "play at" not caring or being indifferent still takes a toll on the human mind, body, emotionsd and spirit. It is, for me, a place of victim conscoiusness which almost always results in a lose-lose proposition (mentally, physically, emotionally, psychologically, socially, personally, profesionally, etc.)

ann michael

Well I certainly can't speak for Bob, but I can vouch for the fact that sometimes I need to dial back the passion a bit to be more effective (and objective).

Passion (just like most things) when taken to its extreme can be destructive. It can cause me to miss or underestimate important obstacles or potential areas of refinement (which is a killer if your business is change management!). says that indifference is a “lack of interest or concern”. We can’t be interested and concerned about EVERYTHING. We need to pick our battles and leave some of the battles to someone else.

The fact that the word indifference causes this reaction is fascinating to me. Words like this (and others like “power”) don’t have a negative or positive (or moral) connotation until we put them into the context of our own frame of reference.

The concept is valid – maybe a word that isn’t so fraught with negative connotation would be a better choice, to allow people to consider the underlying concept without “word baggage”..

Personally, I think the more healthy thing to do is to figure out why we take a word like indifference and only ascribe negative qualities to it (me to, btw, my first reaction to this was VERY negative – until I thought about it more).

John Dodds

I think the use of the word indifference here is potentially problematic as to some it connotes a wanton lack of concern. Isn't disinterest perhaps closer to what you and Ann are talking about?

peter vajda

I wonder if engaging with a "beginner's mind" as opposed to indifference might result in a new set of "AHAs" or insights that might be unavailable with an attitude of indifference.

My experience tells me that passion plus curosity (with a beginner's mind") results in greater "movement forward" than passion and indifference which I see as mutually exclusive. Personally, I cannot be passionate and indifferent. I can be passionate and patient, passionate while surrendering, passionate while trusting and letting go to see what arises in various situations, but never passionate and indifferent.

Bob writes: "Passion is a wonderful if your organization and your colleagues care about you. BUT it is recipe for self-destruction if you are trapped in a job with a demeaning boss, or worse yet, knee-deep in an workplace where asshole poisoning runs rampant."

Actually, I have been in this type of situation and it was my passion for my work and a strong sense of presence that prevented me from self-destructing...and actually resulted in my making gains (personal and professional) while others were dwelling in self-pity, blaming, gossiping, and self-destructive behaviors.

Daniel Andrews

I am sorry that I cannot agree with you on this. I lost a coaching job with kids, because of my passion, and what I thought was my duty as a child advocate. I'd rather err on the side of passion, than show an ounce of indifference. I can accept what I did, because I am responsible enough to know what matters is truly caring about those under your direction and in your life. Therefore at least to me, it is impossible to equate passion and indifference they are different entities, and yes I understand both can be destructive, but one almost always is and that's indifference.

ann michael

Now I really can't wait to read the book (to hear more of your logic on this subject)!

I think you're right in that indifference is not something we generally consider a virtue - but as with most things in life understanding when something applies and when it doesn't is the hardest part!

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