I hate cynicism. That being said—I can be a terribly cynical person at times. I don’t like this about myself and I would like to blame someone else for my cynical nature. Perhaps it was all the tv shows that I grew up watching. They featured overly cynical people—Archie bunker, George Constanta, Chandler Bing, and even Oscar the Grouch are as cynical as they come. But here’s what I’m realizing. Being cynical is a choice and it’s one that I would like to stop making.
Strangely enough, the root of the cynical movement began in ancient Greece and was intended to lead people to virtuous living. The idea was to reject conventional thinking with regards to money, power, and reputation in an exchange for a simple and happy life. Over time, the concept of cynicism turned into an idea that is more negative than positive.
Cynics take a negative view of just about everything. They tend to doubt people for no other reason than to be disagreeable. Cynics are distrustful of other people’s motivations and usually pretty dismissive about new ideas and innovation.
The thing about being a cynic is that it can be very off-putting for other people unless the other people are cynics as well. Cynics feed off each other too–devolving into a spiral of negativity. I’ve been there and it’s no fun.
So I began to work on it. I didn’t want to be that person who is being avoided by others. And also, I spent some time with a friend of mine who seems to have so much more happiness than I did. I thought to myself, “how do I get that?”
Here’s what I’m trying – maybe it will work for you too. Three tips in avoiding cynicism.
The underlying cause of cynicism is pervasive negative thinking. It’s the “glass half empty” mindset. Negativity might be a natural part of your personality but it’s also a learned mindset. If it’s something that you have learned (from culture, friends, etc) then it is something you can unlearn.
Decide to be positive. Happiness is a choice. Jesus said that what flows from our mouths is born in our hearts (Mt 15:18). Therefore, if you think negatively, you’ll speak negatively.
Next time you have a chance to say something cynical or negative. Try doing the opposite. Say something positive or affirming. Perhaps the “flow” that Jesus was talking about can move in both directions? The more you speak positively, the more you’ll start to think and feel positive as well.
The apostle Paul reminded his friends in Ephesus, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph 4:29).
Give People The Benefit of The Doubt
Give more people the benefit of the doubt. If the cynic inside of you distrusts other people, then learn to trust instead. Decide to assume the best about other people and their motivations, especially when you don’t have all of the information.
Distrust is also a learned behavior. If you grew up and felt consistently let down, lied to, or taken advantage of you may go through the rest of your life thinking everyone will treat you the same way.
Of course, only some people will let you down. Many people can become trusted friends and family—especially when they are given the benefit of the doubt. Trusting other people and receiving their trust in return is an important part of building lasting relationships.
Surround yourself with more positive people
You can’t choose your family, they say, but you can choose your friends. Find people that are less cynical and model your behavior after them. You’ll notice some significant differences in the way your new friends think and talk.
Uncynical people are friendlier, happier, and more joyful. Honestly, they are the kind of people that cynics loathe. Cynics assume happy people are just Pollyannas, naive, or just plain dumb. For some reason, cynical people tend to assume that they are the only ones with the right ideas and mindset.
If you spend enough time around positive people, you may begin to be more positive too. And hopefully, less cynical.