A while back insanitybytes raised an interesting point. Many men and some women choose to define themselves as “simple”. Many women and some men are baffled by this and offended when the same thing is said about them.
Our cultural definitions of simplicity vary, but at the core, the idea is “this is not complicated”. A simple task is one that takes little time, effort or expertise to do when compared to similar tasks. A simple book is one that is short, plain and easy to read compared to similar alternatives. So simplicity is not only cultural, but relative in general. What is a simple book to a ten year old is complicated to a four year old.
When we get to people it becomes even more confusing. Because people are so multifaceted, simplicity isn’t quite so… simple. People have minds, hobbies, bodies, interests, needs and hearts. And each of these things can be simple or complicated, in the good sense and the bad sense.
Someone’s mind can be simple in that they are not very bright, or simple in that their thoughts are clear. Or be complicated in that they are highly intelligent, or complicated in that their thoughts are random and cluttering.
Someone’s hobbies can be simple in that they are easy, fun or cheap, or simple in that they are infantile. Or be complicated in that they are expensive and troublesome, or complicated in that they require high skill.
Everyone has their own idea of what it means to have a simple mind, body, heart or need. Some will paint it in a good light, others not so much. There seems to be a split, similar to the introvert/extrovert split, between simple and complicated people. There are people at one extreme who are dull, easily pleased, boring, cheap, clear, concise and readable. There are people at the other who are bright, dissatisfied, exciting, expensive, unclear, waffling and unpredictable. And there is an entire spectrum in between. And, much like introverts and extroverts can view “party girl/guy” or “the quiet type” as mildly insulting or somewhat complimentary, simple people and complicated people view “simple” or “complicated” as either a good thing or a bad thing.
Therefore, a complicated person is likely to view “I am simple” as self-depreciation and “you are simple” as insulting. Likewise, a simple person is likely to view “I am complicated” as an excuse for poor behaviour and “you are complicated” as insulting.
But neither is always the case.
When someone considers themselves “a simple man/woman”, often they mean it in the good sense. As in, their speech is direct and to the point, their needs are few and easily met, their hobbies are uncomplicated, they discriminate their entertainment carefully, etc. Just because you are simple in some ways or overall doesn’t mean you are simple in every way. A simple person can be highly intelligent. They are just direct.
When someone considers themselves “a complicated woman/man”, often they mean it in the good sense. As in, they are outgoing and fun, they have a busy schedule, they enjoy a wide variety of hobbies, they are intellectual and gregarious, etc. Just because you are complicated in some ways or overall doesn’t mean you are complicated in every way. A complicated person can be highly agreeable. They are just busy.
When you think about it, you’ll find that you lean one way or the other and most people you know could be called simple or complicated, whilst some are only slightly one way and some are dead-centre. What are you, simple or complicated? What is your opinion on simplicity or complexity in people? How do you get along with your polar opposites?
People come in all forms. Some simple people are dumb and some complicated people are annoying. But just because those words can carry that meaning doesn’t mean that is the only meaning they convey.
After all, when someone asks “What do you want for dinner?” and someone else answers “Steak and chips are fine. I’m a simple guy.” he probably doesn’t mean “I’m an idiot.”
TTFN and Happy Hunting.