Can We Remove "Calm Down" From Our Collective Vocabulary, Please?

We are complex beings. If we want lasting friendships and relationships, we have to learn to accept people for their strengths AND their vulnerabilities.
Publish date:
January 4, 2014
calm down already, vocabulary

I don’t recall everything about my teenage years, which is probably a good thing, but I do recall one phrase being said to me numerous times: “Taylor, calm down.”

My usual response: “No.”

It still causes my blood to boil. The definition of "calm" can be read as the following:

Adjective: (of a person, action, or manner) Not showing or feeling nervousness, anger, or other emotions. Noun: The absence of violent or confrontational activity within a place or group. Verb: Make (someone) tranquil and quiet.

The issue I take with this commonly used phrase is how it's usually used against someone feeling very real emotions. People are allowed to feel. It is how we are designed. It separates us from robots, remember? The nature of the phrase "calm down" means to quiet someone, to halt any display of emotions. I cannot speak for all of us, but when I think about the times this has been said to me, I don’t remember causing harm to anyone. I was simply angry or sad or excited by something, and expressing it. Why was it so important for me to stop doing that? If someone hurts my feelings, I may want to confront him or her. If an event causes me pain, I might want to talk about it. If I am enthusiastic about something, perhaps I want to share it.

I should also point out that 99 percent of the time this has been said to me, it's been from the mouth of a man. Instead of listening and having a discussion about how I was feeling, a man (or a number of boys, I should say) found it easier to yell, “Calm down!” at me. It was always said with an attitude of disdain and arrogance: “How dare she be upset by something. I would never be upset by that, thus nobody else should be.” I think this attitude can be an easy escape route so nothing substantial has to come from the situation. If you tell someone to calm down, you can simply walk away and blame the other person for being irrational. You don’t have to hear them out and respond. Nothing will have to change if this happens.

I'm obviously aware that women have said this to men, men have said it to other men, women have said it to other women. I expect it is rarely said with respect or consideration, no matter who's saying it. However, I must point out that women are constantly dismissed for having emotions. Guess what? Women having emotions means we care about stuff. THANK GOD. Where would the world be if people didn’t passionately care about things?

The heartbreaking irony of human beings is that we're all constantly feeling things, yet we're usually flippant about others’ feelings. Or at least we don’t want to listen to others express their feelings or help them deal with any difficulty they may be having. We forget to how to be empathetic. We forget that whatever they're currently dealing with is legitimate simply because it's happening to them.

We have to end the cycle of ignoring and dismissing others. We are complex beings. If we want lasting friendships and relationships, we have to learn to accept people for their strengths and weaknesses. Showing vulnerability has to be stopped being deemed as a negative thing. To grow together and individually, on a small scale and a large scale, we have to be open and encouraging.