How Cynical Are You?

By: Raj Chander

How Cynical Are You?
Image: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/DigitalVision/Getty Images

About This Quiz

George Bernard Shaw once said, "The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it." 

He makes a pretty good case for being a cynic. In a world full of boisterous political leaders making big claims, billion-dollar advertising campaigns designed to get consumers to open their wallets and social media sites spreading disinformation at an alarming rate, it's important to take things as they are and consider people's true motivations. When some of society's most notable figures are known for making up blood-testing methods and saying things like, "Let's just do it and be legends, man," it would seem that a healthy dose of cynicism could be in order.

But there's a high-profile counterargument to Shaw's take, one touted by historic figures like Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein: Optimism allows us to achieve our dreams and do things that society previously wouldn't have dreamed. After all, where would we be if the Wright brothers hadn't been optimistic about being able to fly, or if Edison decided to give up after failing to invent the light bulb on his first few attempts?

You'll hear pros and cons from both optimists and pessimists—which are you? Fill us in on these questions and we'll give you our verdict.

It's your first date with someone new! What's your approach?
I go in expecting them to be a perfect match.
I try to see the best in them, if it's at all visible.
I'm hoping they don't annoy me too much.
I'm trying to figure out excuses to leave in case it goes badly.

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You're at the office working normally when your boss calls you into an unexpected meeting. How do you feel?
Like I need to start looking for a new job.
I'm worried – this probably isn't good.
It's a bit concerning, but maybe it's something positive.
He's probably got a great new opportunity for me.

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The way we maintain our bodies says a lot about how we view the world. How do you feel about keeping in shape?
I try to go to the gym or exercise a couple times a week.
I try to do it when I can, but it rarely happens.
Why bother working out? Life is short anyway.
I'm very disciplined about working out 5-6 times per week.

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What is your marital status?
I've had some flings, but nothing serious.
I'm single and probably always will be.
I'm married to the love of my life.
I'm dating someone pretty seriously, but not sure I'm ready for commitment.

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Sports is a unifying pastime - what's your view of them?
I like them and watch when I can, but I'm not a diehard fan.
They're an awesome, uplifting metaphor for society at large.
I catch the big games, but I don't care enough to watch them consistently.
A bunch of guys in pads running into each other and chasing balls? Pass.

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How frequently do you criticize things or highlight the negatives of a potential plan?
Almost never – I focus on the good.
I try to be positive, but I don't mind pointing out obvious flaws.
More often than not
Almost always – someone has to be realistic.

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It's a brand new day and you've just woken up. What's the first thing you do in the morning?
Groan and hit the snooze button
Lay in bed for a few moments to get fully awake
Spring out of bed and get started with my day
Grumble about how early it is for a few minutes, but then get out of bed

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How do you socialize with people?
A normal level of politeness
Finding similar things to complain about
Very carefully at first, until I get to know them
Openly and warmly

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Our visual preferences say a lot about us – what's your favorite color?
Green
Red
Brown
Black

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An excellent opportunity becomes available at work. How do you respond?
I probably won't even get a chance to work on it, so I'm not worried about it.
I'm wondering if I'll have what it takes to do it, but still taking the chance.
I'm happy about it, but also considering the cost.
I think about all the awesome growth this could lead to.

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How often do you make donations to charity?
Never, they're probably just going to use the money to pay some rich CEO more money.
A few times per year
As often as possible
Only when I'm pressured

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Your perspective on the future is a big indicator on your level of positivity. What do you see yourself doing in 10 years?
Continuing to achieve incremental improvement, I hope
Progressing even further to become the best version of myself
More of the same thing I'm doing now
Hopefully something better, but I doubt it

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In which of these cities would you most want to live?
Los Angeles
Chicago
Nashville
New York City

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You're walking down the street when a stranger approaches and explains he's down on his luck and needs some help. What's your response?
Sympathize with him and give him whatever spare change you have
Hear him out and then give him as much money as possible
Not even acknowledge them and keep walking
Politely say you can't help them and keep moving

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What was your attitude about attending college?
I went and loved it! Some of the best times of my life
It had its challenges, but it was overall a good experience.
I liked some of it, but overall it was more for tradition than education.
It was a pretty big waste of time, I didn't learn anything useful.

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You're at a party or similar gathering, how do you approach interactions with people you don't know?
I don't interact with new people unless I absolutely have to.
I try to branch out, but in a very guarded way.
I'm pretty open about talking to everyone, even strangers.
I talk to a few new people.

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Your spouse or partner is complaining, which is annoying you – how do you handle it?
I try to be patient, but it's hard.
I roll my eyes and complain back under my breath.
I ask them why they are always like this.
I give them a big hug and reciprocate with love and patience.

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We are what we eat. How often do you visit a new restaurant to broaden your horizons?
All the time, preferably once a week
Once every month or two
Once or twice per year, on a special occasion
Never, unless I'm absolutely forced to

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Music is the rhythm of life! How often are you listening to new tunes?
Never, I know what I like and everything else is probably bad.
When there's someone people say I have to check out, I do.
Every once in a while, to keep things fresh
Almost every day if I can!

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You've been assigned a challenging project at work that is outside your area of expertise. How do you respond?
I'm excited about the chance to stretch my abilities.
I'm going to be stressed, but I'll give it a shot.
I'll work my hardest on the project, but I'll complain to myself the whole time.
I'll give it a shot, I guess, but I doubt I'll be able to manage it successfully so it won't matter.

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The weather can change our outlook – how does it impact you?
I hate it when it rains, sunshine is OK .
I love it when it's beautiful, but I'm OK in any weather.
I'm happier in the sun and a bit more bummed out in bad weather.
My mood changes when the weather gets bad, but I still make it through the day.

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You get to work one morning and a colleague is in a bad mood. What do you do in response?
Give them a word or two of encouragement, then try to move on
Just ignore them and go about my day.
Pick up their saltiness and start my day in a bad mood as well
Try to have a conversation with them to make them feel better

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We wear our hearts on our sleeve, as the old saying goes. What kind of clothes are you most likely to be rocking?
Whatever is clean – it doesn't really matter what I wear.
Something nice but normal
My best duds at all times – I feel great when I look great!
Whatever I have that is presentable in public

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You're at a family party and the DJ announces the dance floor is open. What's your next move?
Have another drink so I can get ready to go dance, eventually
Stay seated and enjoy watching everyone else try to dance
Getting out on the floor and tearing it up all night!
I might dance a little later if someone drags me on the floor.

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If you could have your final message on your tombstone, what would it be?
"It wasn't worth it."
"Life is a party!"
"That was cool, but tough."
"I lived well."

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Given one word to describe you, what would your friends choose?
Idealistic
Rational
Pessimistic
Negative

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What do you see yourself doing for the rest of your life?
Hopefully, I'll move up at work.
More of the same boring stuff I'm doing now
Make progress toward several of my personal and professional goals
I'll be achieving the life of my dreams!

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Artists are famous in history and modern culture, but what's your take on fine art?
It's a beautiful representation of our world.
It's nice to check out from time to time.
It's OK, but I'm not a huge fan.
Why would I want to look at that?

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Smartphones, laptops and similar devices are advancing all the time. Do you like to get new technology as soon as it's out?
No, what's the point?
Not usually, it's not that important.
Every once in a while, when I really want a new model
As often as possible!

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You've finally gotten some downtime from your busy work and social schedule – how are you spending it?
Exercising, cleaning, or doing something else productive
Relaxing at home watching TV
I don't know, whatever I feel like.
Probably just staying in bed

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You Got:

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