When you consider the factors that hold people back from wealth, you might think about a lack of motivation or business savvy.
But new research suggests there’s another reason why some people earn less money than others: They’re too cynical.
The study was led by researchers at the Institute of Sociology and Social Psychology, University of Cologne, Germany. They looked at survey data from thousands of people in the US and Germany and found that cynics tended to earn less than their more optimistic counterparts.
For example, among German participants, the least cynical people saw their monthly income increase by about 230 Euros (or around $250) between 2003 and 2012. Meanwhile, the most cynical people didn’t see any significant increase in their monthly income.
Cynicism was measured by answers to questions such as, “Do you believe that most people would exploit you if they had the opportunity?”
The researchers suggest that cynical people are less willing to rely on others, to collaborate, and to ask for help when they need it because they assume malevolent motives behind people’s behavior. That resistance may serve to undermine their chances of financial success, given that most of us work in social settings.
There is, however, one caveat: The link between cynicism and income is strongest in countries with high rates of helpful behavior and low levels of antisocial behavior (like crime). In other words, cynics are only at an economic disadvantage when they live in countries where their beliefs aren’t justified.
So how can you go about adopting a more optimistic outlook without losing your sense of realism? Start by acknowledging one person or experience to be thankful for every day. You can also try thinking about yourself as in control of your life instead of the victim of external forces.
Chances are, you’ll not only improve your financial life – you’ll be healthier overall.