Passion and cynicism

April 20th, 2009

I’ve been facilitating some public meetings recently and I’m struck by the difference between passion and cynicism.

I admire people who are passionate, who are willing to put themselves out there for their beliefs, who will speak up in the face of opposition and on behalf of the marginalised, unheard and disenfranchised. I don’t have to agree with you to acknowledge and admire your passion.

Cynics are another matter. Cynical people make me grumpy – and it’s hard for me not to show it. Cynicism seems to be energy draining, while passion builds energy. Cynics tend to marginalise themselves, and don’t ever seem to be satisfied. With anything. Nor do they have any suggestions for how things might be better.

Grrrrrr… can you tell that I’m still grumpy?

One of the challenges of facilitating is honouring all comments and input. Honestly, I really struggle to honour cynics. What about you? Do you have any advice for me?

4 Comments so far

  1. Heather Davis on April 21, 2009 4:03 pm

    Hi Viv,
    Totally agree about the energy sapping consequences of being around cynics. I used to be as equally frustrated as you are until I read this definition of a cynic:

    A cynic is a jaded optimist.

    Now, before I give up on the cynics amongst us altogether, I at least reflect on whether these people are jaded optimists who just don’t have the energy to be disappointed again!!

  2. Lynn Walsh on April 22, 2009 11:45 am

    Some advice I got years ago, particularly in relation to anyone in the room who might press the wrong buttons for me, was to think to myself “how can I help you?”. Might not directly help the cynic. Does help suppress the urge to respond inappropriately though.

  3. Matt Moore on April 27, 2009 5:13 pm

    Viv – I’m not sure that I like this opposition between “passion” & “cynicism”. I see myself as a passionate cynic. I believe that human beings are deeply flawed but I refuse to jettison the idea that the world can be changed. The question to ask a cynic is “Now that you’ve said that will never work, how will you make it work?”

    If their cynicism is an excuse for passivity then they will have no answer and frankly you’re better off without them. However if they have an ounce of oomph then they’ll have a suggestion.

    My current motto is “Change the world or **** off” (yes there is more than a dash of Blue Monster in there).

  4. Viv McWaters on April 27, 2009 5:54 pm

    Thanks guys! I can often see the passion hiding behind cynicism, and I’m very clear that my role as a facilitator is to acknowledge, hear and help everyone in the room, including people who might be cynical, angry, loud, annoying, beligerent etc. I draw the line at abusive. To me, or other people. And I also prefer people who are all of the above to those who are withdrawn, sullen, sulky, needy or bored. Even so, they also receive my attention, support and encouragement. This, I believe, is why facilitation can be such hard work, and draining, sometimes. I tend to avoid responding inappropriately – and then let off steam on my blog! Give me the passionate person hiding their passion behind cynicism any day. The cynic who just wants someone else to do their bidding, and is ‘helpless’, well, I can do without ’em.

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