Most people are cynical

Cynical: This is how cynical people harm their careers

Those who go through life cynically not only harm others but also themselves. That may surprise some self-declared cynics. The self-image is often that of a person who is above things. Who looks behind the scenes, while the great mass is made up of sheep. But cynical people are by no means the big checkers, but deep down they are above all sensitive. Negative experiences shaped their attitudes, the cynicism actually only serves as a protective shield. Since they are constantly busy distributing, they do not even notice how others are withdrawing. This strengthens their perception - but in reality they are digging their own grave with it. Completely counterproductive and unnecessary. We explain the difference between cynical, sarcastic and ironic. Also: Why it is not worth being cynical ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

What is a cynic?

Synonymous with cynical is also spoken of snappy, malicious or malicious. The term cynical or cynic goes back to the ancient philosophers. There a person was described as a cynic who represents a needlessness and ethical skepticism. Actually, cynical derives from Latin cynicus respectively kynikós ab and means "doggy", "needless like dogs". The Cynics believed that happiness could not be obtained through material goods. The way to absolute freedom was seen in turning away from the norms and values ​​of society.

A change in meaning took place over the millennia. In modern parlance, cynical means that someone behaves in a cruel mockery towards other people. According to the Duden, cynicism describes a callous, compassionate and inhumane attitude in which one approves of hurting one's counterpart. The original meaning still shines through here, because the cynic doesn't care about the norms and values ​​of society - even if not in the effort to achieve freedom.


I am not cynical. I have multiple sarcasms.

What is the difference between cynical and sarcastic?

Different terms are used in the same breath as cynical or simply confused. Sarcasm and irony are also often heard. There is some overlap. The difference between cynical and sarcastic as well as ironic is a little more complex and can best be explained using examples. Let's start with the most innocuous version:

  • irony: Strictly speaking, irony is a stylistic device. The most striking feature of the irony is that someone says the exact opposite of what they actually mean. Of course, irony only works if a potential interlocutor can decode the utterance as irony. This usually succeeds when the speaker makes the remark with conspicuous emphasis, gestures or facial expressions (e.g. rolling eyes). On the other hand, there are also situations that are self-explanatory. If your colleague has just poured a freshly brewed coffee over his clothes and then exclaims "Oh great!", Everyone usually knows that the colleague is not really delighted.
  • sarcasm: How do you recognize sarcasm? When you return to work after your lunch break and your boss greets you with “Well, you're overworking again”, then that's sarcastic. It's ironic at the same time, because he means the opposite - apparently you don't work that much. The saying is sarcastic because it is supposed to mock you. While irony is still referred to as gentle ridicule, sarcasm is already a touch tougher. This is because the language is biting or scornful and directed against others. This can then degenerate into polemics, factual aspects are ignored, instead personal attacks follow. In contrast to irony, sarcasm does not necessarily use the opposite, so that he can do without irony at all.
  • cynicism: In contrast to irony and sarcasm, cynicism is not understood as ridicule. Cynics deliberately attack common norms and values. Those who are cynical are bitter and hateful in their utterances. And he means it - completely free of irony. That includes racism and other discriminatory statements, so he breaks common taboos and thus reveals his worldview. That could just as well be the Ossis, the women, the youth of today.

Example of a cynic

Finding examples of cynical people is not easy. Moderators like Harald Schmidt or Jan Böhmermann are probably best known for making cynical remarks. However, as with so many quotes from well-known writers, a distinction must be made between the utterance and the intention. In fact, many have honorable goals by denouncing grievances. A frequently cited example is the following quote from the Roman poet Horace:

Happiness is when bad luck hits others.

It is unclear whether the poet was actually a cynic or just made an all too human observation: malicious joy.

What is the cause of cynical people?

Cynics have experienced disrespect and a lack of appreciation for long periods of time. Several studies come to the conclusion. The diaries of test subjects were examined and data from other studies from a total of 29 countries were compared with one another. The scientists Dr. Olga Stavrova and Dr. According to Daniel Ehlebracht from the Institute for Sociology and Social Psychology at the University of Cologne, there is also a connection between cynicism and poor education. According to this, cynics are less common among scientists.

Anyone who is cynical towards others already has a negative, pessimistic view of human beings and thus hides their own injuries. Because actually everyone longs to be liked by others. To do this, however, it would be important to open up to other people, admit your own inadequacies and be lenient towards other people. But that's exactly what doesn't happen: Those who are cynical are not empathetic. Rather, it has something of revenge for self-experienced injustice. The cynic rises above the other by "wiping them out" and can feel so mentally superior.


Curriculum Vitae - Special Skills: I speak four languages ​​fluently: Ironic, Sarcastic, Cynical, Ambiguous.

The consequences of cynical behavior

Cynics like to generalize. Anyone who thinks and speaks cynically sees everything with a negative sign - other people are automatically assumed not to be good. That makes teamwork difficult from the start. Several reactions to cynical behavior are possible on the part of others. The respective behavior of an attacked person can have both immediate and long-term effects. If you take a cynical attitude, you shoot yourself out of the way:

Disrespect creates new disrespect

Understandably, hardly anyone reacts happily to malicious remarks. Depending on how rhetorically versed a person is, but also how de-escalating they are, the contradiction can turn out to be. In principle, there is a greater risk that cynical slogans will be answered with renewed disrespect. This confirms the worldview of the cynic and leads to a vicious circle. Depending on the “degree of hardness”, another possibility would be for colleagues to have a regular exchange of blows, for example - as a valve for tension, so to speak.

Cynicism causes others to withdraw

A modification of the above example can be combined with puns. Those involved also know each other well enough to know whether something is meant to be cynically hurtful or rather sarcastic. At the moment when this can no longer be clearly recognized, the situation changes. In the case of strangers in particular, it is often difficult to assess the meaning of an utterance. Cynical sayings then tend to move the other person with skepticism and distance - out of pure self-protection. Of course, this makes it difficult to establish a relationship of trust. So cynics are pretty isolated and lonely.

Moving away makes it difficult to build networks

Anyone who is cynical is practicing self-sabotage. Anyone who permanently offends others is depriving themselves of profitable opportunities for cooperation. Valuable contacts are not made in the first place or are lost. This is reflected in fewer offers of help - who would offer help to a fellow pig?! It can also be seen in job-relevant networks. Here is a reference to a vacancy, there a reference to an interesting project - scientists in particular are dependent on cooperation and word of mouth, which is why it would be more than counterproductive to maintain a cynical view of mankind.

Cynicism costs energy and money

In their study "Cynical Beliefs About Human Nature and Income: Longitudinal and Cross-Cultural Analyzes", the two Cologne scientists show that the bottom line is that cynics pay more. Your negative image of human beings can be invested in an infinite amount of time and energy in controlling and monitoring others. In fact, cynics do worse when it comes to financial counting. That means: more openness and open-mindedness carries the risk of disappointment and renewed injury. However, when viewed objectively, this occurs far less often than feared. Other people are much more likely to be friendly if they are also treated in a friendly manner - and according to the study, this is reflected in an income that is 1,000 euros higher.

Tips against cynicism

Cynical behavior doesn't pay off. Neither in terms of friendships nor career advancement. Knowing this in the back of their minds, people who are accused of being cynical should look into their behaviors. You can't change other people - but you can change yourself. That requires the courage to give others a leap of faith and to endure any setbacks. Stavrova and Ehlebracht point out that such behavior pays off in the majority of cases and is rewarded with honesty from the other side.

In addition to self-criticism and a more open-minded approach, there is one more aspect to consider. The psychiatrist and psychotherapist Dr. Horst Walter Ebeling-Golz sees cynicism as a precursor to burnout. People who observe a behavior change in themselves and have only been cynical for some time, above all, could be overworked and fail because of their own ideals. Here, too, it is important to question yourself, your work ethic and your performance mindset.

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