You know the drill. Start the day resolving to stay optimistic, open up any regular news and pfsssst--all the happy goes go out of your joy balloon. But maybe Anne Frank had it right and people really aren't just a bunch of lousy curmudgeons after all.
Contact lens company 1-800-Contacts got curious about how we see each other philosophically. They sent a survey to more than 1,000 Americans for insights into the classic question--do we think people are inherently good, are we rotten?
We are good people
Despite the world's turmoil, 83 percent of those surveyed believe that people are fundamentally good. Baby boomers are the most likely to hold this belief (91 percent) compared to those in Generation X (84 percent), Millennials (81 percent) and Generation Z (75 percent). This might tie to life experience, which can reassure you that people can unify and overcome. But there is only a slight variation when you compare by gender (84 percent for women, 82 percent for men). Of those who believed people are good, 73 percent say they're satisfied with their career.
And you don't have to accept that people are totally selfish these days, either.
Of those surveyed, 80 percent believe that people have a responsibility to help others with time and effort, while 72 believe that people should help financially.
The same generational disparity seen for the fundamental belief in human goodness shows up here, however--94 percent of boomers say they've given to a charity, for example, while just 69 percent of those in Generation Z say they have. This might connect to the current emphasis on individuality and personal grit. But it doesn't necessarily mean that younger people don't want to be generous. As the researchers note, it might simply be that older individuals often are retired or advanced enough in their careers to be earning more and to have more time to give to others.
Women are more likely to give their time and money than men, as well. This might be because, while both men and women now take on traditional caregiving roles, women still do so disproportionately. They therefore might have an easier time recognizing or responding to opportunities to help.
But what about relationships at work, which now are lauded as the key to business success?
93 percent of people say they have good relationships with their colleagues. And even though bad bosses get a lot of press, the overwhelming majority of employees say their boss is a good person (90 percent) with good intentions (91 percent).
Politics will not sway us
And it turns out, not even the current political climate can turn the office into total hole of misery. 73 percent of Democrats and Republicans had a polite and sincere discussion with someone who had opposing views, and most people (70 percent) think that others who disagree politically just have a different idea of doing good. Those who held this belief were more likely to experience life satisfaction (84 vs. 70 percent). Democrats and Republicans also both saw the top three positive traits in others (compassion, adaptability and cooperation).
Overall, positivity really does pay
Interestingly, staying optimistic about others might literally pay off. People who believe others are fundamentally bad make an average of $45,078, and 63 percent report getting a raise in the past year. Comparatively, those who think everybody's fundamentally bad make just $40,296, with just 52 percent getting a raise. People who think others with different political views want to do good also make about $5,000 more annually.
The final lesson
There might be days where you feel like others are the darkest thing about the world. But the survey says that's a feeling that's wholly unfounded. There is common ground. People want to help. And they probably don't see you harshly. There is a vast amount of good around you, if you just look. And if doing that gets you happiness and a little more money in the process, that's a pretty fantastic reason to give optimism a big heck yes.