Have you ever heard the cliche, “no bond is stronger than two people who hate the same person?” It turns out there is actually some truth to that statement. Despite hating people being a socially unacceptable act, on the few occasions when people have the guts and/or strong emotion to motivate them to share their negative opinions about a person, it often pays off in the form of new or stronger connections.

Research has found that people form stronger bonds when they are able to talk about their dislike toward someone else than when they both have positive feelings toward someone. The question is, why does an action as disrespectful as spewing negativity about other people increase hateful individual’s quantity and quality of connections?

The Fiery Emotions that Fuel Hatred

If you are a generally positive, forgiving person, the concept of hating others, much less someone you barely know, is a foreign concept to you. The majority of the time, people don’t say hateful things because they are a cruel, judgemental, antisocial person. Instead, common feelings and psychological needs bring out the worst behaviors in some individuals and prompt them to say negative statements about another person.

Here are four of the primary reasons why people hate others:

People want a scapegoat

When you are struggling, whether it’s problems at work, low self-esteem, conflicts in your relationships, etc., it feels much better to funnel your negative energy into blaming someone else than to confront your own role in your problems. A lot of people join hate groups because it allows them to funnel the blame for all of their problems into another group of people while being supported by a group of people who share their beliefs and make them feel like they belong.

↑ Table of Contents ↑

They’re lonely and seeking connections, even hateful ones

Many other people join hate groups because it fills their need for friendship and belonging. You don’t need to do or be anything special, all you have to do is be negative towards other people. It feels easy. Likewise, some people find it easier to make connections by putting others down and seeing who agrees than to prove to people that they are interesting and valuable companions.

↑ Table of Contents ↑

They fear the unknown

When someone new enters a group, particularly if they are in a position of influence, many people immediately begin gossiping negative things about the person because they fear how that individual will change their group dynamics. Sharing hatred toward the new person is a way for the existing group to strengthen their bonds in defensive against the outsider.

↑ Table of Contents ↑

Their insecurities get the best of them

Hatred also surfaces when people are highly insecure. Often, they’ll compare themselves to other people and when they come to the conclusion that the other person may be better than them or possesses traits that they don’t want to acknowledge that they also share, people may speak out against that person to project their anxiety onto them.

↑ Table of Contents ↑

Understanding the Bonding Power of Hatred

Expressing dislike for other people is controversial. We’re taught from a young age that you should only say nice things about other people, so when someone says something negative, it catches other people’s attention and draws them in. If people share the negative opinions, it opens the ability for people to form connections in three key ways:

↑ Table of Contents ↑

Hatred defines social lines

Humans desire structure and certainty in their social lives. To establish that, people naturally divide into in-groups (social circles where everyone feel like they belong with one another) and out-groups (people who exist outside of social circles and are typically not welcomed into them). When people declare their dislike for others, it helps people understand the boundaries between social circles. This is a powerful motivator for people to form bonds because it satisfies their need to feel connected to others.

↑ Table of Contents ↑

Mutual dislike evokes a stronger response than mutual like

In one study, people were shown a video of two people having a conversation in which the man is politely hitting on the woman. After being asked if they liked or disliked the man, they were told they were going to meet people who shared their opinion of them and asked how likely they were going to get along with the person they meet. People who had a negative opinion of the man were far more likely to say they would get along well with someone who shared their negative opinion than those who had a positive opinion.

↑ Table of Contents ↑

Sharing hatred can be an expression of vulnerability

Research shows that to form lasting, intimate bonds with people, you have to be vulnerable with them–that is you have to share your authentic, unfiltered feelings. Instead of being negative toward another person because of the internal struggles described above, you may share that you hate someone for a valid, personal reason such as they hurt you or hurt someone and/or something you care about. This instance is a moment of vulnerability because you are sharing a difficult experience which can lead others to hate the other person on your behalf and bond with you.

↑ Table of Contents ↑

Bonds of Hatred Come at a Cost

Though there are some bonding benefits to spewing negativity about other people, don’t try to use this tactic to make friends because its risks far outweigh any good that comes from it. Be aware of these potential consequences of speaking poorly about others:

To know if someone else dislikes the same person as you, one of you has to make the first move and say something negative. This can come at a serious cost to your reputation of people around you if they do not agree with your negative opinions. Researchers have discovered that when we hear someone talking about other people, we impose the content of what’s said onto the speaker. It’s a phenomenon called spontaneous trait transference and to understand how it works, pretend you and I met at a conference and are having a conversation like this:

You: “Hey Vanessa, what did you think of the last speaker?”

Me: “Ugh, he was so boring and dry. I had trouble keeping myself awake.”

This can go one of two ways: If you also thought the speaker was boring, we would bond over our shared dislike of him. But, if you thought the speaker was interesting or at the very least, deserving of a decent review, you would hear my opinion and think that I am boring and dry because your brain would project my statements onto me. It might not be instantaneous or something you’re fully conscious of, but how you feel about me would decrease in response toward my negativity toward another person.

On the flip side, if I raved about how intelligent the speaker was and how I loved his energy, your brain would also project those traits onto me and give you a more positive impression of me.

Another danger of sharing negative opinions toward other individuals, particularly when you are with people you don’t know well is that you create a negative emotional impression of yourself. People only remember a small portion of what you say however, they develop concrete memories of how you made them feel. If your words evoke anger, frustration, disgust and other cynical emotions in other people, they are going to associate those feelings with you. Most people don’t like feeling those ways and may be less eager to see you in the future because you bring down their emotional state.

Bottom line: Given these risks, unless your hatred is founded in a socially acceptable ideological belief, comes from a personal experience of being hurt or could be otherwise justified by most people, it is best to keep it to yourself.

About Vanessa Van Edwards

Vanessa Van Edwards is a national best selling author & founder at Science of People. Her groundbreaking book, Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People has been translated into more than 16 languages. As a recovering awkward person, Vanessa helps millions find their inner charisma. She regularly leads innovative corporate workshops and helps thousands of individual professionals in her online program People School. Vanessa works with entrepreneurs, growing businesses, and trillion dollar companies; and has been featured on CNN, BBC, CBS, Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur Magazine, USA Today, the Today Show and many more.

17 replies on “Why People Hate: The Science Behind Why We Love to Hate”

  1. Leslie Luker

    Monique Kalinski is spot on Love is the only thing that will save the world and all it’s people but various ideologies put us all at odds with each other, even communists have rich and poor and none of the current mindsets work. I wish God would bless us all and open the minds of all people to achieve a common goal

  2. Monique Kalinsky

    Thank You So Much For This Insightful Truth. The World Is In Severe Defecit of Love & Understanding yet Has an Abundance Of Hate & Injustice. We The People Need To Take A Stand To Be Better Starting With Our Emotional Intelligence. Take A Good Look In The Mirror & Make That Change, Quite Literally-Become The Change You Want To See. CHOOSE LOVE OVER HATE, God Bless Us All.

  3. Jocelyn Gomes

    I am currently dealing with a hater on a freaking social media app. #cyberbullying but I’m the winner. If you’re hated, take it, accept it, use it!!

  4. Clint L

    I will tell you what I’VE learned: Haters are not happy people; they have to build themselves up by tearing others down. People who are always negatively gossiping about others should be avoided because they’ll do the same to you behind YOUR back. They can’t be trusted.

  5. Paige Sanborn

    I absolutely hate science it might be my teacher but it’s also the fact that we do like 5 min experiment that is anti-climatic and as stupid as putting salt in water and watching it dissolve (literally we did that) and we spent the rest of the time filling out forms and taking notes on everything! I hate science. Plus it’s not like we use science in real life.

    1. Dani Maidany

      Dear Paige,

      I am not sure what grade you are in, but I can understand that sometimes information is not presented in the most captivating way. It is especially hard to like something when we do not understand why we are learning something, or why it’s important, or why we should care.

      We also do not have to like every subject out there. Science is a branch of many subjects including Biology, Ecology, Chemistry, Physics, Zoology, Botany, Meteorology, Astronomy, and Social Sciences, to name a few. Individuals can contribute to society in their own field, ultimately working together.

      Science is everywhere in real life- from the fuel for vehicles, the weather, medicine, electricity, sport, the internet, and even something simple like salt and water. When we add salt to water it increases the boiling point and decreases the freezing point. This means if you add salt to a pot of water it will take longer to boil, and if you live in a cold climate, adding salt means the water won’t freeze as quickly. You may have heard the expression “cooking is a science!”
      Everything from your toothpaste, plastic, the fabrics in your clothes, is a product of science combined with other fields. Mixing baking soda and vinegar creates a chemical reaction that we use for cleaning surfaces and laundry. Even the act of breathing itself is a function of biology and science.

      You may continue to “hate science” but hopefully this opens your mind to the way you benefit from or use science in your life every day.

      The most important thing you can do is keep an open mind, ask questions like “How do we use science in real life” and when you come across statements that say “never” or “always” consider what exceptions there may be.

      Check out Bill Nye the Science Guy if you want to see how nerding out about science can be fun, and help us understand real life!

    2. Jacob

      dear paige,

      i think you are ignorant, please consider what you are saying and dont group all of science into a single experience with a sucky experience

  6. Plam McPawf

    In my entire working career and life, there’s only One person I truly hated and still do. It’s not because of the reasons stated here, but because he was a snake in the grass, distrusted by everyone who knew him. He was my last boss and no one stood up to him until I met him. When he crossed me several times, I blew the whistle and that’s when his history came out and the company demoted him. Again he was hated not because of all the reasons mentioned in the article; it was because he operated with impunity until someone had the balls to stand up to him. He’s still hated to this day.

    1. Lou G

      Thats awesome because most people keep their tails between their legs for one reason or another. Me, no I live by this quote: IF YOU DON’T STAND FOR SOMETHING YOU WILL FALL FOR ANYTHING! good job for taking a stand….

  7. Naveera

    Thank you for this insightful look inside our reasons for hate. As I dwelled more on what you wrote, I found that it is very true. What you wrote in this article is what many of us know in the back of our heads but we never try to address it. When this truth was layed out in front of me, I felt a clearer understanding of my emotions thank you for that.

  8. Vern P.

    It be OH SO NICE to have this info in a pocket size booklet. Sealed cover for protection a must.
    It’s going to get messed up quickly from pulling out & in a lot, mainly as a reference for others to “GET IT”.
    THANKS SO MUCH for this article.

  9. Sharon Russell

    It’s always easier to find a solution when you look from the outside at other people’s relationships, parents don’t live forever and can not always protect you, but to me divorce is the best ever legal legislation invented, it saves lives, hatred kills people it’s not always physical sometimes brains can be damaged beyond repair.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related

Read More in Behavioral Psychology