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Monday, July 03, 2006

Defeat the Snarky Smirkers

Life makes some people cynical. Looking for the worst? You'll find it.

Some would have you believe their negativity and cynicism are actually hard-won wisdom, a kind of advanced degree in critical thinking. But in fact, cynicism and negativity do not add up to wisdom; rather, they add up to negative patterns of thought that can be habit-forming and destructive.

It takes minimal cleverness and maybe seven facial muscles to produce a smirk sufficiently smirkly to paralyze creativity. We've all had ideas, work, art, children, partners, etc., all victims of murder by smirk. It's an awful feeling. Even a non-lethal injection of scorn has the power to shut down many people once and for all.

Someone recently told me a significant percentage would rather be hit by a bus than speak in public. Imagine willing to risk such physical damage just to forgo public speaking, a very rewarding skill to develop with all sorts of fringe benefits. The fear of being publicly scorned is so deeply ingrained that we might not even figure out the core fear.

The smirk murderer gets a cheap (and fleeting) sense of superiority from their generous disdain. "Look how clever I am to have seen this thing for the drek that it is." Negativity is not a philosophy, it doesn't uplift anyone, it teaches nothing constructive, and it hurts people in more ways than we'll ever know.

One thing is for sure, a life spent avoiding the risk of falling prety to smirk murderers can become a kind of prison. Expecting the worst can attract it.

The reverse is true, too. When you face the world with honest expectations of basic human goodness, people respond in kind. There's a kindness and guilelessness people with optimistic expectations exude. People, young, old and in between, all respond to someone who's actively ready to believe the very best of them.

I've been running an experiment. I generally do expect goodness from people, but I've been making a concerted effort to make that more obvious.

I get a lot more smiles. I have chats with interesting sptrangers all over the city. It lifts us both up to a nicer place where we can begin to conceive of brotherly love.

Plus, I'm happier. Life feels less fearful, my relationships deepen, and my prospects become more abundant. Once in a while, I actually notice that I've had a long spell of being pleased, grateful and content.

Have I ever been fooled by expecting the best? You bet. I've got a couple of BeeEffDee stories on that subject. Have I been cheated? Once or twice. Has it been worth it? Absolutely.

Crossposted at: cambium creative's blog.

Hello !

Very very interesting to read you...from Brussels, Belgium !

You have a lovely blog ! Very nice !

Thanks for that !


Nice cat! :-)

In matters of interpersonal interactions, then yes, your approach is excellent. I do the same. Maintaining a positive attitude and especially a good sense of humor will attract positive, energetic people to you.

But I know many who have been hornswoggled by self-styled "life coaches" to a degree where they make big life decisions (particularly career ones) that turn out to be foolhardy. They buy into some weird cultish notion that has become a very popular way of hawking "self help" books these days that holds that you can have anything you want just by thinking positive and visualizing yourself living out your dreams.

So they drop their boring, high-paying job in the rat race to start some idyllic little small-town café or something with expectations for success that are supported by wishful thinking, rather than market research and well-established expertise. Reality sets in after they quickly burn through their retirement savings and the kids' college fund, file for bankruptcy, and lose their house.

There is every reason to maintain a positive attitude when interacting with other people. But when it concerns business matters, the positive attitude must be complemented by a firm grounding in the realities you face. Be positive, yes, but don't let your self-induced euphoria cause you to go out and do something stupid.
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