Of late, if you feel like you’ve been bombarded with well-meaning yet hollow statements which somehow seem to centre around themes of positivity, mindfulness and gratitude, you’re not alone. It’s one thing to remain positive even in the face of adversity. It’s another thing to completely cast aside perceived “negative” emotions such as cynicism because “no one deserves that sort of toxicity in their life.”
Let’s pause for a moment, shall we? There’s nothing wrong with finding the best even in the worst of situations – that’s a testament to the wonderful force of nature which is the human spirit.
But we can’t help but feel that skepticism and “trusting your gut” has gotten somewhat of a bad rep. Especially when we are told to “learn to trust, go with the flow” and keep our minds open so we can be ever-ready to receive knowledge and wisdom about the mysteries of the universe.
You should not cast aside your skepticism just because the world tells you to have unwavering faith, no matter what. Rely on your inner detective to help you see through the smokescreen of badly drafted plans, suspect beliefs and terrible ideas. Cynicism in healthy doses should be encouraged, not demonised. Use it as a tool to examine things which appear too good to be true, or inherently deceptive. Leverage it as an anchor to keep yourself ground, and watch out for rocky terrain.
So put down the Kool-Aid, brew yourself a nice strong Kopi, and find out more about you can become a better communicator by harnessing your inner cynic
Discovering your inner cynic
If you’ve been in the world of comms long enough, you’ve probably seen more than your fair share of Terrible Ideas. If your gut instinct makes you want to roll your eyes far back into your brain and petulantly exclaim “ugh, seriously?” (of course, you don’t actually do this for the sake of politeness) when you’re presented with an idea, listen to it.
And then voice your concerns about the idea in the most polite way possible – contrary to popular belief, this isn’t actually rude – but healthy, practical, and so important. The oft-repeated mantra of “be positive” asks us to cast aside our doubts and embrace all aspects of the process, but no creative process would pass muster with the public without any form of evaluation and refinement. Use your inner cynic to push for quality ideas and discard subpar ones.
Editing your inner cynic
Cynicism generally stems from sources both rational and irrational – past experiences, industry knowledge, and internal biases and prejudices. Turns out, you could just be nitpicking at a perfectly sound idea because of reasons not related to the actual content – and it is your responsibility to examine why you have this chip on your shoulder. Which basically means – you have to be cynical about your cynicism.
If all of that sounds a bit too philosophical for your liking, here is a checklist of questions you should ask yourself the next time you have a strange feeling about an idea:
- Has something similar been done before? Has that idea failed?
- If it’s something that crashed and burned spectacularly, were there any factors which contributed to its failure? Do we have the power to change anything this time round, and potentially prevent catastrophe?
- Does this idea contradict something I believe in? Is this belief of mine set in stone, and impervious to alternative viewpoints or reasoning? Why?
- Does this idea go against something that its target audience believes in? Can we, and should we be attempting to change our target audience’s beliefs?
- Do I think that this idea is too costly in terms of time, resources and skills? How else can we make this idea come to fruition and see the light of day?
Usually, it’s easy to justify your gut feeling. But something, cynicism stems from an irrational place, and it can prevent you from considering alternative perspectives because you are convinced that your own is the right one.
We once worked with a client who we felt was “unpitchable”. Despite consistently churning out badly designed products, they were convinced that they were the bees’ knees. We listened to our inner cynic, who told us to push back on their ideas, and most of the times, we turned out to be right because most of their products eventually crashed and burned. After that, we become conditioned to look for flaws in all of their upcoming products – until a new team member asked us to stop, and reconsider the way we were looking at a specific new product in question.
Turns out – there was actually something unique about the new product, and we realised that if someone had not reminded us to check our inner cynic, we would have ended up depriving our client of a great opportunity.
Expressing your inner cynic
Sometimes, telling clients that they are in the wrong can be complicated – people working in an agency roles would be most familiar with this. Butas communicators and guardians of our clients’ brands, we owe to them to tell them when, where, and how they are going wrong.
One way to do this is to justify your concerns with examples and data – this moves the conversation away from the realm of feelings and into one of facts. Another way is to come prepared with alternatives. No client enjoys being told they have a problem without being offered a solution. In terms of positioning your pushback, always be conscious about not attacking personal views or beliefs, and instead focusing feedback on solving your clients biggest challenges.
So the next time you are overcome with the overwhelming urge to roll your eyes when you hear a “bad” idea, take a deep cleansing breath, examine your feelings and harness your inner cynic to help you find the next best solution.
Have a few ideas up your sleeve but need a fresh, “cynical” pair of eyes? We can help : firstname.lastname@example.org