JUST99WORDS: The Skeptics Beat the Cynics

Know the difference?


It’s wise to not buy everything read or heard. Skeptics add value with, “Not sure that’s the best path; can we talk about it?”

A skeptic’s accountable question (QBQ): “How can I make a difference?”

Pushback builds a better mousetrap.


Cynics doubt the intentions, sincerity, and good will of others—usually management. Cynicism is the cousin to victim thinking. Destructive questions like, “Why are they doing this to us?” are whispered.

Thinking the worst of people is a terrible way to work and live. It tears organizations—and relationships—down.

Be skeptical, not cynical.

Which word describes your organization? How about … you?

Comment below!

*Written to be read in under a minute, JUST99WORDS is a fast and snappy ”mini-blog” by QBQ! author, John G. Miller. Sometimes practical, sometimes inspirational—and always worth sending on to colleagues, friends, and family!
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11 Responses

  1. This is a tough one for me John. And the reason I have begun following your work.
    As I got older and more unhappy with where I was in life I also found myself becoming very cynical.
    I have begun to become more of a skeptic and less of a cynic and ask that very question, ‘What can i do? and How do I make a difference?”
    It has really changed my outlook and attitude and I am able to better help others.

  2. John,

    Whatever/whomever generated the idea of these 99word mini-blogs has my gratitude.
    I read them and consider and am done in a minute or less.


    PS. I’m much more likely to be first, a rose-colored glasses person before skeptical. “Cynical” is something I stay away from.

  3. Ben Zander said that a cynic is a passionate person who doesn’t want to be disappointed again. I have always found that it is easier to engage a cynic than one who is apathetic. I prefer to think of the cynics as critical evaluators, protecting us from shooting ourselves in the foot by demanding thoroughness and accountability.

    1. Thanks, Ben. You just described a Skeptic, in my humble opinion. Thinking the worst of people’s motives and intentions is what the Cynic is all about. Thanks for sharing!

  4. John, you really hit the nail on the head with this one. The distinction is not only accurate and informative, but critical to reference. Its good to have not only a clear way to explain the concept, mostly the difference, but also a test to keep ones self in check. We should all try to be skeptical, and much less cynical! Thanks again John for another great one!

  5. Excellent thought for the day! In many classes that I have took we focus on personalities. A persons personality is driven by their past experiences and even their psychological health. I have worked in area’s that this can cause alot of problems in the work and home life. Maybe we have to ask why are they cynical? Is there something driving this and how best can we support them?

  6. I’ve worked with computer professionals for much of my early career and learned that you could ask questions that were not automatically received as criticism.

    As I’ve gotten older I believe that I’ve learned to be more diplomatic in asking questions. Maybe or maybe not, but I do feel that in more situations than I remember from earlier years, some people are quicker to label someone as critical or cynical for asking questions.

    My goal is to identify what can I (we) do better and I’ll strive to work towards that. I do wonder, however, whether we are living in a time when the act of questioning or disagreeing is seen as negative and going/getting along are seen as positive regardless of whether it improves outcomes (personal or task). I do wonder…

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