Ever stop to wonder how hard it is to stop being cynical in relationships? Isn’t love bigger than a cynics doubt? Not according to the experts. Cynics are not ruled by love. They are influenced by fear. So, let’s see what the experts have to say. You’ll be surprised to learn how complicated and twisted, yet simple it is to begin positive change.
Researchers Dr. Jordan Poppenk and his master’s student, Julie Tseng, at Queens University, have established that we have about 6,200 thoughts a day. That’s over 4 thoughts a minute! Now imagine these thoughts are of the Pollyanna principle, which is of the positive bias, the tendency to remember pleasant things more accurately than unpleasant ones. That would be the likes of a cheering squad inside your head with many optomistic thoughts a minute.
But if you’re the cynical type, your chances of positive thought drop dramatically. And now you’re faced with continued negative rampage by the minute. And they are not only negative thoughts towards life and love, they are toward yourself as well. With this catastrophic impact, how to stop being cynical is difficult as a single entity, let alone in relationships of two or more.
Well, don’t let cynicism get you down. There is hope on how to stop being cynical in your relationships. It starts with understanding what you, the cynic, go through, how you should listen to others, and how to pay attention to how your negative responses affect those you love.
In Part 1, we are coving how to listen and make changes. In part 11, we cover my favorite, how fighting the effects of cynicism rather than the cause changes the game.
It’s easy to point a finger and blame. “He or she should just think more positively.” But when you understand what a cynic deals with daily, living in a state of consciousness where the world appears responsible for their pain, then it’s easier to have compassion.
Cynics come across as assholes, but they are the first to suffer from cynicism. It’s common for them to lose out on love and great relationships. I’ve seen cynics desire a relationship so bad they could taste it but had no control. It’s like watching one of those movies where you keep saying, “No, don’t do it!” or “That’s the obvious wrong choice dude! Why?”
Pointing the finger does not motivate the cynic. Research (Bond et al., 2004) suggests some cynics are less likely to trust conflict resolution styles that involve collaboration and compromise with others due to the fear others would use the opportunity to exploit or betray them. This example is work-related, but it’s similar for personal life. Cynical people distrust most resolutions that include them being named the wrongdoer.
Here are few examples of how cynics rationalize not having love or why it’s okay to lose love:
- They focus on every negative reason why the love of their life was or is bad for them.
- There is no such thing as real love.
- Rejecting relationships becomes a repeated cycle, never leading to long-term love.
- If the relationship is long-term—3-10 years is a good example, they always end their relationships, as the grass is always greener elsewhere.
- Loving someone is a fleeting thing. It will only make me sick later.
- You won’t risk failure or being hurt again, as it’s inevitable.
- There is no happy ending, so why try. Let’s just have sex.
- Love is too consuming.
- That person can’t possibly love you. It’s all a lie. They want something from you. Security, money, status, etc… the cynic can invent unlimited reasons why that person doesn’t love them.
- You make blanket statements about men or women as if all men or women are basically the same, impossible, or just not trustworthy.
- The grass is always greener somewhere else. You’re never satisfied.
- Cynics who feel abused easily feel contempt for their partners. And contempt is the Terminator of Good Memories. They will forget every good quality or act in their partner, no matter how wonderful their partner might have been. So, past relationships are the result of falling out of love, in their minds anyway. They make cold, sterile statements like, “Couples fall out of love all the time. Why fight it.”
Unfortunately, cynics, much of the time, have narrowed friendships. And we all know what happens when anyone avoids the public sphere and socialization as many cynics do. It leads to isolation, depression, and more pessimism on top of the already pessimistic mountain.
We can have an understanding, or we can point fingers. But as well, if you’re a cynic, you must take your actions seriously to make changes by first realizing you tend to bring negativity out in everyone, but not least, in yourself.
So, the first step to healing, of course, is admitting you’re a cynic.
WHAT IS A CYNIC
Without using clinical terms, cynics are people who see human motivation as “guilty until proven innocent.” And innocence is rarely proven. They believe the human core is self-serving and negative regardless of any proof otherwise.
They have a disposition of contempt for accepted standards of honesty or morality. They will openly oppose others’ integrity with bitter distrust and pessimism because most are less trustworthy than themselves.
Most of the time, a cynical person will choose to doubt, disbelieve or discredit, even when there is no logical reason to do so. As is done after they end a relationship. A cynic will hang on to things that are not real.
The one interesting thing about cynics is who they chose to believe in. Yes, they do have favorites, a guru in the family, or a best friend who can actually influence them. Or so, it’s what I’ve observed in my life. They, much of the time, associate with others who have their same fears and pessimistic views. Backing each other up regularly becomes the death of them all. It’s a circle they might not even be aware of.
The Grinch is a great example of cynicism. He was hurt, he was angry, and he became cynical and mean. Research shows that cynicism can starts small and grows bigger. You’re not necessarily born with it. You may never have suffered negative thoughts in your younger days, and suddenly you wake up realizing you are a cynic, and it started with that one thing, that big fear or angry period that now has leaked into other domains of your life.
Cynics avoid taking responsibility for their actions. They feel it’s their right to speak up as the realist, and their cynicism masquerades as wisdom. Even that person you love who is an amazing soul when cynical becomes the blamer. And it’s often under the guise of wisdom in their devil’s advocate responses.
At the same time, they find fault in others rather than themselves. I’m sure you know these people as the ‘woe is me’ types or that guy who always see the cons on the list. The guy who can’t believe his boss likes or respects him—the guy who questions his or her success daily.
They are on alert for the worst things to come in life and usually knock down every bit of positivity with the constant chronic worrying. Worrying that can have no logic to it. Like a man who imagines the worst every time his child or wife goes out. If his family is late coming home, he imagines an accident or crime. Even worse in his mind, they were not honest with him about where they went. Why else would they be late…..?
How to stop being cynical is not an on and off switch as most think!
IS IT BAD TO BE A CYNICAL PERSON? SUCCESSFUL LEADERS LIKE NAPOLEON BONAPARTE WERE CYNICS
First, let us realize that some of the cynic’s negative views are important. Successful leaders in our history were cynics like Napoleon Bonaparte. Diogenes of Sinope (c.400-c.325 BC) was known as the most popular of the Cynics. Plato called Diogenes ‘Socrates gone mad.’
Cynical views and moral advice to the Athenians were based on the belief that cynics were the ascetic way of life that protected a kingdom from its enemies. Science has proven, our brains are hardwired to pay attention to the negativity bias. So, it is our nature to protect ourselves from danger, and only when negative things become exaggerated and overdone does it harm us.
Now we know that cynicism is nothing new if the Greeks mastered it, and that part of negativity is crucial to survival. But also, it is not an irreversible disease-like condition. We can do things to change our cynical thoughts, but it starts with understanding the reasoning behind cynicism, which is a compulsion to feel negative.
Signs you’re becoming cynical: The Story of Tera
Tera and her husband Jonathan had been planning a family vacation for a long time, and finally, the time arrived. But something began to change in her, and it exploded on that vacation.
Arriving at the hotel, they discovered their reservation was canceled. Her husband insisted he’d taken care of it, but Tera was sure he didn’t and embarrassed Jonathan at the front desk.
Later that evening, they were not allowed to have cocktails on the hotel beach area, and Tera insisted it was a way to force the high price of the neighboring restaurants who offered dinner on the beach. When their son became sick on the trip, it was the hotel’s flagrant lack of care to clean the rooms properly or purchase proper cleaning supplies. And when Jonathan didn’t want to swim at the hotel, she claimed he set out to ruin her vacation and life.
By the time the two-week vacation concluded, her irritation had grown into a daily criticism towards her husband and their son for anything and everything. His clothes were wrong, his views were wrong, and she spoke about how Jonathan spoiled their son with indulgences that other kids didn’t have, like toys and electronic games that would ruin his life.
Tera continued to voice her right to be realistic about her husband’s inability to have fun regardless that the only thing he didn’t do while on the trip was swim in the hotel pool. He purposely caused her pain, so she kept reminding him. There was no logic behind her discomfort outside of everything that was against her.
Cynicism can start with one thing and spiral over the years into bigger things. And the more negativity we feel and see around us, the more likely we are to express it with others. You can’t always go back and find the source. But you can start making changes today.
How to stop being cynical means avoiding discussion on negative things. Practice and think about positive things is a start.
LISTENING TO OTHERS HELPS FIGHT CYNICAL THOUGHTS
To be cynical is to use a dysfunctional rationalization or a behavioral pattern that allows you to justify treating others abusively; thus, the cynic never needs to examine their own behavior or understand its effects on others. Only when they finally start listening will they begin to change. Admitting your cynical is a start, but it’s not a cure. Many cynics know who they are. And listening is also tricky.
When a cynical person begins to listen to others, especially topics deemed negative, risky, or useless, they are no different from anyone else who learns something new; it takes time and practice.
Call it faking it at first if you like. Cynics don’t want to listen to others; they think they already know. Tera never listened to her husband. When the hotel admitted a problem with their on-line system and gave the couple the discounted pre-booking price regardless, she still insisted it was her husband. She never paid attention to how her son felt hearing her complain throughout the trip because she was justified. She was the realist who was showing her family how not to fall into life’s trap.
Cynics, like most people, are aware their spouse and child should be heard. It’s a matter of not fighting over the topic but rather discussing how the cynic’s actions affect those around them. Tera’s husband walked out of the hotel room after fighting with her on the last day of their trip. He broke under the weight of her beratement. And she felt no guilt until her husband returned and asked her, “How does our son feel not going out to dinner tonight when we are on vacation? Are you, we, ruining his vacation because I ruined yours?” It didn’t matter who’s fault, or what the argument was about.
Jonathan wanted Tera to speak to a friend of theirs. He wanted an outsider’s opinion. But Tera refused. She didn’t need to listen.
You cannot change the view of a human plagued with pain. But you can ask them to do a loving act for someone else, and they might just do it. Cynics are not bad people. They sometimes just need to view their negativity from another view that sparks a desire to change.
(Part II in HOW TO STOP BEING CYNICAL: Fight the effects of cynicism, not the cause, covers details on how to help a cynic understand how they are affecting those they love, and it’s a huge impact on them. )
HOW TO STOP BEING CYNICAL BEGINS BY LISTENING
Listening to that someone you love or anyone for that matter is important— but the main idea is to listen to what others have to say all the way through. Cynics will decide something is negative before the other person has finished explaining and not even hear everything. They sometimes have no ability to focus past the first sentence. As if the worry, pessimism, or bad habit of not listening is hard to control. The other person might have talked and explained quite a bit, but the cynic stopped listening many sentences ago. So, make a note. The idea is to listen all the way through, even if you don’t want to.
Voice no opinion for 48 hours or ever. Just listening makes you less of a cynic, so it’s a good start. And not commenting for short periods makes you less of a cynic as well because cynicism is a defense posture; not commenting means you are not defending yourself or your ideas.
Listening to the possibilities:
I know a man who was sure no woman could love him for him. It had to be a mistake that any woman chose him. Cynical thought said it was his money, or perhaps his manly support. He’d been married, divorced, and had three long-term relationships by the time he was 43 years old. He will tell you he fell out of love with all of them—and that his ex-wife only married him in desperation—But one day, he listened to realized his views were not supported by facts. He couldn’t name three women in his life he’d ever met that actually married a man for his gold! And his ex-wife did not remarry. He learned that typically, desperate women remarry right away. (It’s amazing how many statics there are available to the public.) And his wife was quite beautiful, talented, and pleasant to be around. Listening to facts that support him being a man of worth speaks loud. Women just might like him for himself. Listening tells him his humor, intellect, attractive looks, and spiritual values make him a good catch.
Just listening to what others have to say without arguing, interrupting, or commenting, with the thought in mind that there is something new to learn each day, can turn cynical thinking into a positive affirmation.
Key thoughts and listening goals:
It goes without saying, but yet it doesn’t. Listening to another cynic isn’t the idea. It’s listening to others with who you typically disagree. Those who you feel are wrong. Listening to your best buddy, well, now that’s just a little too easy, and if you’re a cynic, your best buddy might be one too! So, you get the drift. You’re cynical, not daft.
- Listen all the way through. Don’t interrupt.
- Remember that there is something new to learn every day.
- Tell yourself that you can be wrong, and it’s not fair to judge any situation before you listen to others. And even if you don’t believe it at first, keep listening.
- Every person you meet knows something you don’t.
- Your partner, spouse, friend, child, whoever has valuable knowledge that can help you grow.
- Start making it a habit to ask why others believe things. It’s a matter of opening up your mind to possibilities.
- Put the important stuff in writing. Keep a journal. After you begin the practice of listening, you’ll notice times where you feel happy, relieved, surprised to have learned something.
- Find time to be grateful. The more grateful you are, the less of a cynic you become.
GRATITUDE AND CYNICISM
Gratitude is an essential motion toward perceiving and appreciating the positives in the world. The challenge is projecting gratitude in a way that allows the cynic to get used to feeling grateful, lest they give up quickly.
Part III of this article series, How to Stop Being Cynical, covers gratitude and how it helps transform cynical or pessimistic lives. I won’t go into detail. But I will say, it’s a very important entity that can help turn cynical thinking around. Research at the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley suggests “…that gratitude may live up to its reputation as “the mother of all virtues” by encouraging the development of other virtues such as patience, humility, and wisdom. “
Here’s another article on cynicism you might enjoy. CYNICISM AND HOW IT CAN DESTROY LOVE AND RELATIONSHIPS