Skepticisim vs. Cynicism

Often the line between skepticism and cynicism is a blurry one or not differentiated at all.  When working in a group on an issue or problem, skepticism can be constructive and helpful in creating understanding and teasing out potential issues by asking the right questions.  Cynicism on the other hand is poisonous and creates an impervious barrier to new ideas or potential solutions. In other words, skepticism is open to explanation and new ideas.   Cynicism is closed minded and not open to change.

Many people don’t have a clear understanding of the difference between skepticism and cynicism and as such may believe that by being cynical they are merely exercising their right to  disagree when in fact their cynicism has the potential to infect other members of the group,  destroy the group dynamic and an opportunity to collaborate and innovate towards a solution.

Sometimes a group leader will try to control the cynics by requesting  that there be no criticism.  That can be just as bad in the other direction.  It’s important to create an environment where everybody is accountable and open to new ideas in addition to feeling comfortable questioning and being questioned.    Constructive criticism is best expressed in the form of questions.  Sometimes self-criticism from the leader can set the example for others to follow.

Cynicism has the power to eliminate hope and dis-empower people, but with a small shift in attitude cynics can become skeptics and skeptics can evolve to problem solvers.


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About John

“John Abele is a pioneer and leader in the field of less-invasive medicine, For more than four decades, John has devoted himself to innovation in health care, business and solving social problems.” He is retired Founding Chairman of Boston Scientific Corporation. John holds numerous patents and has published and lectured extensively on the technology of various medical devices and on the technical, social, economic, and political trends and issues affecting healthcare. His major interests are science literacy for children, education, and the process by which new technology is invented, developed, and introduced to society. Current activities include Chair of the FIRST Foundation which works with high school kids to make being science-literate cool and fun, and development of The Kingbridge Centre and Institute, a conferencing institution whose mission is to research, develop, and teach improved methods for interactive conferencing: problem solving, conflict resolution, strategic planning, new methods for learning and generally help groups to become “Collectively intelligent.” He lives with his wife and two dogs in Shelburne, Vermont.”

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