Skeptic or Cynic?

March #SOLC17 Day 16


I had a conversation with one of my favorite people yesterday.  We only get to talk once a month, or so, and when we do it’s a marathon!  We cover so much ground – from family to education and everything in between.  I love catching up with her.  After our conversations, I truly know what it feels like to have my bucket filled.

Yesterday’s chat, as always, had some real gems.  My friend attended a conference a couple of months ago where the speaker asked the crowd; “Are you a cynic or a skeptic?” She shared this with me back then, we talked about it – in theory – and then moved on to other topics.  It intrigued me, but I wasn’t sure how it looked in “real life.”


I am a firm believer in questioning.  It has been a cornerstone in my life for a very long time.  In fact, I can recall my 6th-grade teacher actually telling me that I asked TOO many questions.  Don’t worry – that didn’t slow me down.  I was taught to question everything. Never settle – if you are unsure or unclear always ask – there are no bad questions – yada, yada, yada.  Questioning has always lay smack dab at the heart of my core belief system.

Until….it doesn’t.

When someone asks a question from a negative place I get very annoyed.  As if they are trying to bait the other person.  A question such as; Do we really need (blank)?  (Insert your own here)  Cynic, I think to myself.   Then there is the other way at which to come at a question; How can we incorporate (blank) with (blank) to best serve the needs of our students?  Skeptic, I think to myself.

The conversation with my friend prompted me to search for words to describe how I feel when the above two scenarios occur.  I found these two definitions – from an article entitled;  Skeptics vs. Cynics: Know Which Are Toxic? | Dharmesh Shah | Pulse 

Skeptic: A person inclined to question or doubt all accepted opinions.

Cynic: A person who believes that people are motivated purely by self-interest rather than acting for honorable reasons.  A person whose outlook is scornfully and often habitually negative


What I learned from this is to not blanketly accept questions for questions sake.  I need to pay attention to the warning signs.  Is questioning being cloaked in sheep’s clothing but really just a back-door form of venting and complaining?  Don’t be fooled.  True inquiry comes from a place of wanting to know more.  Seeking to understand.  Intention.  Really wanting more information.

From now on I will make sure my questions are not coming from a cynical perspective.  We can’t be skeptical all the time, but it’s OK to speak up when we have doubts…after listening and understanding first.  Change starts with me.









2 thoughts on “Skeptic or Cynic?

  1. What a thought-provoking post! You must have talked with Shari yesterday. 🙂 This post really makes me think about how I word my questions. I could see how my words can be heard as cynical or skeptical, when in reality I didn’t mean for them to be either way…just straight up curiosity. I appreciate the way you ended with, “Change starts with me.” You can’t change someone else, but you can influence by modeling.

  2. I really enjoyed this post. It made me stop and think about myself as well as how I perceive others. I’m guilty of perceiving a lot of questions as cynical (like the one you asked me today in the hallway :)). Instead, like Angela mentioned, a lot of time there is “straight up curiosity” or even skepticism from people looking to understand more about a topic.

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