Saturday, October 07, 2006

The three 'ists' that define People!

After trudging through a couple of topics, not knowing where to end or how to end, eventually leaving them incomplete and unpublished, here I am writing about a topic inspired by a friend who set me thinking on this one.

In this cluttered world of extreme market segmentation, where every new attribute is broken up into different classes, taking a macro-view on people helps. The dictionary defines 'ist' as a person who follows a distinctive doctrine, theory, system or practice. I essentially feel that there are three kinds - Optimists, Pessimists and Realists.

Ask anyone in this world or for that matter yourself whether he/she is a pessimist? The answer, most if not all the time would be an overwhelming NO. They would rather classify themselves as 'realists', someone who know the ways of the world. We have different words for the same set of people - a slightly more optimistic term would be 'Pragmatists' while a pessimistic term would be a 'Cyncist'. How about each one of us? Different types of reactions for three different words - Optimist or a Realist, you feel good and termed as Pessimist or Cyncist, you rise to defend yourself staunchly.

Why do people react negatively when others associate them with slightly negative terms (does the term 'pessimist' or 'cynicist' connote a negative meaning is a totally different argument)? Hope is a very siginificant part of anyone's personality. Hope denotes Optimistic view of the future. Optimism correlates very strongly with self-esteem and psychological well-being and hence by corollary, we expect all people in the world to be Optimists. However, the number of studies that have been done on Pessimism are far more in number than those done on Optimism. Does that serve as any indicator to how most people think?

How about being called a 'Realistic' personality? A feel good factor probably - knowing the perfect balance between what is optimism and pessimism! But probably that is the way we should function. In psychological terms, Optimism and Pessimism are not opposites. Having more of one thing does not mean you have less of another. The factors that reduce one do not necessarily increase another. The dilemma/conundrum as is the case with every human tendency is the balance of the two, to achieve harmony in a personality - a task which might be difficult, if not impossible.