Miles was an executive who worked long hours at a large bank. He was a great guy, but a cynic. When Miles learned how to fighting the effects of cynicism not the cause, it was his backstage pass to solving issues that harmed his family. You can’t force a cynic to change, but you can remember that they are good people and surprise them with some logic.
It’s actually easier to stop being cynical when you fight the effects of cynicism, not the cause. Cynics don’t like to listen, but they love. It’s why they lose their mind trying to protect someone or something with what they deem as their valuable wisdom. Understanding how to get around the fear they feel can change everything.
Miles was on the commute train to work before his daughter rose for school and home, usually close to her bedtime. If you were to ask anyone who worked with Miles or knew him personally what they might think of him, most felt he was the guy who had it all. A good career that started early— an intelligent and above-average man—a family life rich in tradition— a beautiful wife and a gifted daughter.
But something worrying was always stirring Miles. He was never convinced of his value as a man, personally, at work, or even that his boss like him. So, life was always throwing him crumbs. The facts were he was well-liked and respected at work and in his personal life. But the older he got, the more cynical he became.
By the time his daughter entered the 2nd grad, he was sure she was not doing her homework or pushing for academic excellence in school. She wasted her ability in lazy habits. So, he imagined. But he was rarely involved in her private life, school, nor did he spend time with her while she did her homework outside of the occasions where he jumped in to prove something to her.
It was true that Miles worked long hours and had little time to witness what took place in the home. Many executives of his status were in the same position. But Miles did not trust the collaboration with his wife that most couples share raising a child. In incessant squabbling between him and his wife, he never stopped believing their daughter was fooling both of them. Or that his wife was too proud and blind to see any or all of the daughter’s failings.
CYNICISM IS VICTIMIZATION
Cynicism is victimization, which is a deeply rooted character trait and Miles indeed felt the victim being fooled by the wife and daughter. And it didn’t matter how many times the wife proved him wrong; it didn’t help.
His abuse continued through the high school years— Miles never could find blame in himself for the distance that grew between his daughter and wife. And ironically freely admitted he was cynical.
It’s impossible to make someone not be cynical. Or show them proof of what they fear. In Miles’s case, his daughter didn’t try to be a great student, and nothing would convince him otherwise.
The world is against cynical people. They worry and distrust everything. You can argue for years, shove proof down their throats, and not change the cynical inside. But if you point out how their actions affect others, they can sometimes see a different view. Clearly, there was a major disconnect between Miles and his family, but Miles focused on his fear rather than the effects of his concern, which only led him further from ever blaming himself..
CYNICS CARE; IT’S WHY THEY ARE THE NAYSAYERS
A cynic usually readily admits who they are. They know they doubt and are the naysayers, they justify it, but they miss how they hurt others in that fear. Their whole argument is usually based on what they think is best for others. How to prevent failure, pain, bad investments, poor judgments, and so on. It’s goodness gone mad in some respects.
CYNICS DON’T ALWAYS SEE HOW THEY AFFECT OTHERS
In Miles’ case, if he was shown how his family was being affected by his worry, rather than how wrong he was about his worry, he might have seen more of the truth. Cynics don’t always see how they harm others.
His wife’s continued demands for recognition failed. Every time she showed him proof or pushed him to call teachers, it failed as a cynic’s worry is stronger than words. And the distrust Miles felt for her as a mother, wife, and person broke her emotionally. Remaining calm became harder with each passing year. She was fighting a battle she’d never win: the worry, the fear, the judgment.
But, where there is worry, fear, and judgment, there is loyalty to something or someone.
Why did Miles worry? He feared for his daughter’s future. His loyalty and love are what drove him. And in loyalty, you have strength. Turn that strength in the right direction, and you have healing. Miles never wanted to hurt his daughter. He thought that tough- love was saving her. So, can you imagine if Miles were to have understood HOW he was harming her, how he might be devastated by it?
If the action causes harm, then the action is not acceptable. Miles thought being the realist would set her straight and keep her on an academic path. If he saw that the effects were taking her off the academic road, would he not stop and think? Yes.
Cynical people are not bad people. They love and don’t want to hurt their loved ones. They actually think often about how to stop being cynical. But, cynics wear cynicism like emotional armor that prevents others from accessing the soft insides. Have you ever seen a sign on the door, “No Soliciting”? These houses are the easiest to sell. They put the sign up knowing they are weak, and years ago when the door to door salesman would see the signs, they’d enthusiastically knock on that door. Cynics are similar; their abrasive exterior is much of the time soft, kind, and loving inside.
Unfortunately, Mile’s wife would need to have the utmost confidence, patience, and trust to calmly show Miles not how his fear or worry was false but how he affected his daughter and wife. The truth then naturally comeS out later when Miles begins to control his cynicism. How to help someone to stop being cynical means not fighting with them. That’s not easy.
Is cynicism ruining your love life, family, relationships? Anyone who has ever loved a cynic feels something imperceptible is either broken or is in the process of breaking at any moment. There is no family serenity.
The cynic rarely blames themselves for lack of serenity; therefore, the cycle continues.
CYNICIAL PEOPLE DISCONNECT
Cynical people disconnect. It’s easy when you think about it. If you feel the world minus the serenity that most experience, do you jump in, or do you pull away? Miles felt helpless as he was not involved in his daughter’s life. When his wife would break out in tears, feeling hurt that she wasn’t trusted, it only caused Miles to disconnect from the truth and focus on fighting with his wife. In his mind, he had a right to be the realist. He had his daughter’s best interest at heart, he didn’t want her to fail, and he missed the point that he was the one hurting her and his wife.
Research at the MAYO CLINIC shows how surrounding yourself with positive people who can give helpful advice and feedback are an important factor in making positive thinking a regular practice.
HOW TO STOP BEING CYNICAL MEANS FOCUSING ON THE EFFECT NOT THE CAUSE
Does it sound difficult to get a cynical person to talk about how they affect their loved ones over the fear that drives them? It’s not as hard as you might think.
When Miles focused on the pain he caused his daughter, not what his fear was about, the homework, Miles could not only see how his concern was damaging but that he was making things worse.
It’s actually straightforward. Cynics are not lacking in the ability to analyze, on the contrary. Presenting cynical people with cold hard facts can be quite effective, but it takes love and time to change habits. Miles might agree that he was affecting his daughter adversely, and the next week does it again. It’s like anything we wish to change. We all know how hard habits are to change.
If you are in a relationship with a cynical person or are one, here are suggestions to help turn things around. But, I’ll write this several times in this article: Fighting the effects of cynicism rather than focusing on the cause or subject of their worry is key.
- Identify how you are hurting others and focus on changing that first. Evaluate how you are affecting those around you. (Remember, this is not the subject that the cynic is worried about, like the homework. It’s how they are affecting those they care about because of their worry over the subject.) It will help you find new solutions.
- What about the cynic drives others crazy?
- Why bad situations don’t change after long periods of his worry?
- Why Mile’s daughter felt hurt and betrayed by him.
- Why Mile’s daughter feared his opinions. His daughter rarely turned to him for help. Why? What about his actions hurt her?
- How do your negative actions harm others? In what way?
And again, we have the Miles’ classic twist: His fears, worry, and constant prediction of her future doom pushed her further and further from him, all the while the distance caused less and less involvement convincing him that much more that he was right. The absence of proof grew larger each year.
- Keep track. Write a detailed list of how your actions have affected others. An example with Mile’s daughter would be she felt hurt, distant, less self-confident, abused, distrust, betrayed, not loved, and so on.
- Strategies how to make things better. Once you have focused on the effects, think of ways to change how and what you need to do to reverse your inflicted hurt. (With Miles, when he focused on how he hurt his daughter and defined how his actions hurt her, he learned that: she felt distrusted, unable, and rejected, amongst other things. Miles began finding ways to show her how he loved her, trusted her, and believed in her ability. He had no idea that his distrust for her doing homework made her feel he distrusted her as a human being. When he realized it, he changed it because it was not his intention. But it took putting the homework worry aside and focusing on her feeling.
- How can you, the cynic, be better? Listen more-say less-give more.
- Think of ways to be more positive about how you’re affecting others.
- Check in with yourself regularly. Review your goals often. Creating a schedule to check in with yourself is helpful. Like each morning or evening, you might review your thoughts and progress.
- Ask, don’t tell. Asking Miles if he notices the difference in his daughter and wife after he began to focus on how he affected them allows him to think and decide for himself. Miles should as well ask himself questions rather than assuming what he knows is correct.
- Listen to others. Know and believe that other people have something to teach you. That each day something new can be learned.
- Be patient. When a cynic realizes how they hurt others, they pause, in that pause is when they suddenly are not focusing on the “Homework” but rather how their own actions are harmful. Continuing to focus on effects naturally brings down the wall, and they begin to see glimpses of truth. But remember, initially, seeing how they affect others doesn’t remove the fear of what they feel is going wrong. It takes time.
- Laugh. Find humor in as much as you can. Love yourself and your family, knowing that the sad can turn to smiles and laughter with a little education as a team.
Be prepared to be logical and straight forward. How to stop being cynical is not easy when arguing is the solution. But sitting someone down with love and explaining how their worry is logical, their concern is normal, but their actions are harmful is eye-opening. It’s more effective than you might think. Call it an intervention of the soul. It’s just too easy to get lost in arguing about the subject. It’s too easy to be hurt by the cynic. So, practice and prepare to have a lot of patience with yourself or the cynic you’re trying to help.
GRATITUDE HEALS THE CYNIC
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.
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. It shows that how to stop being cynical can be complicated, as cynical people distrust most resolutions that include them being named the wrongdoer.
Part I, How to Stop Being Cynical In Relationships, focuses on listening to others.
Part II, Fight the effects of cynicism, not the cause, is what you’re reading now.
Part III, Gratitude Heals the Cynic, shows how gratitude helps transform cynical or pessimistic thinkers’ 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. “