Most people would agree that extreme personal happiness is a great thing to have. But how do you view other people who appear to have achieved near perpetual bliss? (Be honest.)
You might feel like a schmuck admitting it, but maybe you view those who seem to walk in eternal sunshine as... how do I put this... not the brightest bulbs in the box? Or maybe you're sometimes a little suspicious about what really lies behind that perma-smile?
Don't feel too bad about your cynicism. It's apparently pretty widespread, according to slightly gloomy but interesting new research from Wharton school professor Maurice Schweitzer recently written up by the Chicago Tribune's Rex Huppke.
A permanent smile is basically a 'kick me' sign taped to your back.
Here's how Huppke boils down the findings: "People who express high levels of happiness are likely to be perceived as naive. We tend to assume that someone who's outwardly happy most of the time is either ignorant of, or intentionally blocking out, the negative things in life that might curb happiness."
And when it comes to a professional environment, that naiveté can end up functioning very much like a 'kick me' sign taped to your back. "If you're trying to exploit somebody, you're likely to go after the really happy person," Schweitzer told Huppke. "That's who we think is going to be the most gullible person, that's who we're going to try to get on the hook for something else."
Schweitzer even goes so far as to recommend the preternaturally cheerful actually fake a little bit more gloom to get ahead at work. "I hate to tell people to dial it down, don't be so happy. But I would push against the positive psychology movement, the power of positive thinking, let's just be happy all the time. There's a cost to that. There's some downside," he notes.
Why you might want to aim for happiness anyway
The fact that your good cheer could be attracting manipulators is helpful to know, but it's important to stress this is far from the only scientifically established link between mood and professional outcomes. Sure, your high levels of happiness might bring out the worst in some colleagues, but another large body of research also shows that those who are most content are also most likely to be successful.
So while Schweitzer is probably right that constantly displaying your good mood might not always be strategically wise, other experts would stress that actually being happy, rather than expressing it all the time, is likely to be great for your career. So don't let the nastiness of our cutthroat world derail your quest for greater life satisfaction quite yet.