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I'm looking for a good way to express the concept of someone whose natural predisposition tends towards less extremes of emotion than the average person; they get less sad when bad things happen, less happy when good occurs, less stressed during difficult times etc. I want to describe someone who still has real emotions, not someone who is unemotional or has such muted emotions as to feel unnatural, just with less fluctuation from their 'norm' than the average person. I'm looking for a term that generally has a neutral connotation, describing the trait as a trade-off rather than desirable or undesirable.

If I understand it correctly the original definition of stoic comes quite close to what I want, other than stoicism being about a philosophical approach rather than natural predisposition. However, I don't feel it conveys the concept as well as I would like due to modern use of stoic usually being applied only to enduring of hardships, which only partially covers the concept I'm looking for. While I would want to describe a person who would likely handle hardships better, due to not being as emotionally upset by them, I would like to equally express the trade-off of not being able to enjoy their prosperity/successes as much due to not tending towards extreme moments of happiness or other 'positive' emotions either. I feel stoic is too positive a connotation because it only brings to mind the useful ability to better endure hardships without expressing the trade-off of less enjoyment of desirable situations.

Ideally I would also not want to imply that this person tends towards an emotional neutral, or Vulcan, state—only that they don't have strong fluctuations from their 'default' state. Their default state may be happy, curious, morose, introspective, angry or some more complex combination of emotions, all that they do not tend to be as strongly shifted from their default by situations.

In the past the best phrase I've come up with is "happily stoic" to describe someone with a more positive default state; though "happily" sounds more like it's passing judgement on the utility of stoicism than defining their default state. In less exact, more jovial, terms I've used "an emotional Vulcan", which incorrectly implies a total lack of emotion and "anti-bipolar", which is close but only implies less fluctuation in happiness/sadness while I'm looking for a term which applies to all emotions.

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+1 for a well-written question describing exactly what you want. A lot of times we get just a two-word phrase without elaboration. – DCShannon Jan 7 at 3:05
    
Kinda dupe but you included much more details so I won't close-vote: Word to describe someone who rarely gets upset – ermanen Jan 7 at 5:02
    
Another related question: How can I describe someone who feels little or no emotion? – ermanen Jan 7 at 5:13

12 Answers 12

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I'm not quite sure whether these will be of any help to you but here is my list:

composed

unmoved

equable

even-tempered

imperturbable

stolid

phlegmatic

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2  
+1 for even-tempered – Tim Romano Jan 6 at 19:09
    
phlegmatic gets my vote: "(Of a person) having an unemotional and stolidly calm disposition: 'the phlegmatic British character'" – Gnawme Jan 6 at 22:45
2  
Stolid & phlegmatic both imply a compressed range of emotions, though I'd say stolid is more commonly understood. Impassive might also work, but that seems to imply no emotions whatsoever. – Ben Simmons Jan 7 at 7:17

You may say that the person is a man of equanimity

Definition: Equanimity is a state of psychological stability and composure. It refers to refers to emotional calmness and balance in times of stress.

Example: Having a tranquil mind, the man of equanimity sits in a calm, still posture. He walks with full confidence, without any fear or uncertainty.

Rarer: "a man of sang-froid".

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We say a person "is very grounded" and mean by this that the person is emotionally balanced with a sensible disposition.

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Equanimous is the appropriate answer.

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2  
Needs a definition. – DCShannon Jan 7 at 2:54

Level-headed was the first word that popped into my head.

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Sang-froid. I believe it can either describe someone who is naturally even-keeled, or someone who has control over their emotions. It is typically used to describe someone who is cool, calm and collected under duress.

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The first word that came to mind for me was nonchalant.

adjective

  1. coolly unconcerned, indifferent, or unexcited; casual:
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I feel that composed and even-tempered, as offered in a different answer, are very good options. I offer a couple of alternatives.

I might describe such a person as nonchalant. The word has a connotation that the person is offering a facade of composure, but is otherwise fairly neutral.

If your friend is acting cool, unconcerned or in an indifferent manner, call him nonchalant — like when he saunters by a group of whispering, giggling girls and just nods and says, "Hey."
Vocabulary.com

Another possibility is inscrutable. It more speaks to it being difficult to know if the person is having a better day than normal or worse day than normal.

Any person or thing that's mysterious, mystifying, hard to read, or impossible to interpret is inscrutable. You ever notice how it's hard to tell what some people are thinking? Those folks are inscrutable.
Vocabulary.com

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"Even-Tempered" has been suggested, and is a good fit. A similar term would be "Even-Keeled" From dictionary.com:

not easily ruffled, annoyed, or disturbed; calm.

I would also put forward "Steady". From Merriam-Webster:

a : not easily disturbed or upset

"Imperturbable" also comes to mind. From MW:

very calm : very hard to disturb or upset

The thesaurus.com entry for Imperturbable has a lot of other good options, including "unflappable" and "rolling with the punches".

The problem with all of these it that they imply calmness, which you said you don't want. To get across the idea of a steady attitude other than calm, you'll likely need to put together a phrase. Something like:

His happy demeanor was unflappable.

or

He's very even-tempered, always upbeat.

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'Poker faced' is another option

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1  
"Poker-faced" means it is difficult to tell their emotions, not that they don't have extremes of them – AndyT Jan 7 at 10:02

alexithymic, from alexithymia: difficulty in experiencing, expressing, and describing emotional responses.

From a- + Ancient Greek λέξις ‎(léxis, “speech”) + θυμός ‎(thumós, “soul”) +‎ -ic.

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This answer needed a dictionary definition, to let people know what the word actually means, so I've added one. – AndyT Jan 7 at 10:03

I would say this person has no personality.

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protected by Andrew Leach Jan 7 at 10:07

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