Do you think most people are selfish? Do you have difficulty trusting people, even when they treat you with kindness? If so, research shows your attitude may be affecting your income.
What the Study Reveals
A new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found a link between cynicism and economic success. Researchers evaluated data from around the world and discovered that high levels of cynicism are associated with lower income. Researchers report that after nine years, cynical participants earned $300 per month less than their more positive counterparts.
Why would cynical people earn less money? The authors suggest their unwillingness to trust others may lead to a refusal to cooperate. Additionally, their constant suspicion of other people's motives may make them less likely to collaborate and less likely to ask for help, both of which can harm their careers.
Interestingly, researchers discovered that the earnings disparity didn't hold true for participants who resided in areas where there was widespread antisocial behavior -- like a high homicide rate. In these areas, where a suspicious outlook is likely to serve as a safety measure, a cynical attitude didn't interfere with economic achievement.
The consequences of a negative attitude extends beyond economic hardship. Here's what other research studies have found:
- A 2009 study found that cynicism placed women at a greater risk of developing heart disease.
- A 2010 study concluded that hostility and cynicism were associated with inflammation in the body.
- A 2014 study linked cynicism with a higher risk of dementia.
How cynical are you?
Unless you're a real curmudgeon, it's unlikely that you're cynical about everyone all the time. But there may be a few areas where you tend to err on the side of negativity. Gaining insight into the aspects of your life where you may be a tad too pessimistic could be helpful.
Here's a quick test -- consider how much you agree with the following statements:
- I think most people would lie to get ahead.
- It's safer to trust nobody.
- Most people will use somewhat unfair reasons to gain profit or an advantage rather than lose it.
This tool -- which was used by researchers to study the link between cynicism and dementia -- shows there are degrees of cynicism. Perhaps you agree with one of the above statements. Or maybe you think all three of them are partially true. Or perhaps you're only cynical about certain people -- like all sales professionals.
Once a Cynic, Always a Cynic?
Fortunately, you can take steps to decrease your cynical attitude if you choose. Changing the way you think about people takes practice, but it can be well worth the effort.
Here are a few ways to reduce a cynical attitude:
1. Heal your past wounds. Sometimes a cynical outlook stems from unaddressed past hurts. Whether you got bullied as a child, or your last business partner stole from you, don't blame the world for a few bad apples. Take steps to heal your past wounds so you can see the world through a more realistic lens.
2. Refuse to see yourself as a victim. Blaming other people for holding you back will keep you stuck. Decide that you're not going to view yourself as a victim and take charge of your life. Recognize the options you have in each situation and empower yourself to make the best choices possible, regardless of what is going on around you.
3. Practice gratitude. Train your brain to start seeing the good in the world by practicing gratitude. Start your day by acknowledging at least one thing you have to be grateful for. Before you go to sleep, recognize at least one person or incident where someone showed genuine kindness, fairness, or integrity.
Developing a more positive outlook doesn't mean you need to see the world through rose-colored glasses. Instead, ditching the cynicism is about developing a more realistic view of the world and the people in it. And the best news is, being less cynical could boost your income and help you live longer.
Amy Morin is a psychotherapist, keynote speaker and the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do, a bestselling book that is being translated into more than 20 languages.
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