When it comes to our moods, we generally want to be happy. As Cari Romm explains at Science of Us, however, recent research suggests there is one downside to being happy that is pretty significant. This study, which appears in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, discovered some pretty shocking results when it comes to how we treat people who are happy all the time. You know, the people in your life who always have a pleasant disposition and are somehow constantly cheerful? Well, according to the study's findings, happier people are more likely to be seen as naive by others, and thus more likely to be taken advantage of. Bummer, right?
The study, which consisted of six experiments and was poetically titled "Bliss is Ignorance," hits on some truths we would perhaps rather ignore. The logic behind the results is that we as adults all know there are a lot of heavy issues happening in the world right now, if not also in our personal lives — so when we meet people who are constantly chipper, it can come across as sheer ignorance and naivety in comparison to people who reveal a wider range of emotions. So if you're the happy person of your office, well, you might find yourself doing a lot more than your fair share of the work.
As Ana Swanson explains in The Washington Post, participants cheated people who were described as "very happy" considerably more often than they did people who were described as simply "happy." Again, the idea here is that if someone is super happy, they must be too naive to feel that way, and therein won't notice you pulling a fast one over them (or will be too "nice" to call you out for it).
Now, there are a lot of ways to unpack this sort of information. While the study doesn't address this factor, for example, I think it's worth pointing out that society often tells women to always "be happy" and "smile," putting other peoples' desires for them to be pleasant above how they might actually be feeling at any given time. It isn't necessarily the case that the sole reason our culture prefers women to be happy and pleasant is so that women can more easily be taken advantage of — but the implications are difficult to ignore.
Similarly, it's interesting to consider the difference between when we actually feel happy and when we pretend to be happy. You know those days when you're in a very "fake it 'til you make it" mindset and it seems like no one else notices? While we can't get inside people's heads, it's good to remember that people are complex; those we see as "overly chipper" or "always happy" might be concealing other emotions beneath the surface, so making assumptions about other people doesn't always stand us in good stead.
But whether people are genuinely happy or not, it's important not to take advantage of anyone else's emotional state. Just because someone may seem to have fewer worries or less on their plate than you do, doesn't mean it's fair to pass the buck onto them, whether in the workplace or in your personal life. If someone is in a solid place mentally and can afford the headspace of helping others, that's great! But it should never be an expectation.
And it should go without saying, but cheating someone is always wrong, even if you think they are too naive or unaware to notice. Not cheating people is just a basic requirement for being a decent human being. It's not a very high bar to clear, so let's all do our best to make it, shall we?