Why Do We Hate?

The Internet brings out the worst in some people. There seems to be an increased level of hate that is spread online, from vicious comments, to cyber-bullying, to harassment.

While the Internet is making it easy for people to give voice to their hatred, the negative emotion is not new. It has existed from the dawn of humanity.

In the real world, we see it across the globe. Wars rage on. Oppression of a group, whether it is ethnic, religious, or racial, is rampant.

But why should hatred be as common as it is? Much of the world’s population follows some religion, and most religions preach love. But people who claim they are religious can be — and sometimes are —  filled with hate.

“Hate” is a strong word, indicating a strong emotion. As with any strong emotion, thinking about and discussing it can be difficult. Have you ever hated someone or something? If so, what triggered it?

Of course, it is possible to experience hatred without realizing it. What you recognize as hatred in someone else they might deny or call a different emotion or expression. And the same is true in reverse: what you think is acceptable behavior, someone else might call hate.

Hate makes us behave in unpredictable or irrational ways, and it can cause a person to behave very cruelly to another. It would behoove us to love more and hate less in all aspects of our life. A good way to start is to understand what the roots are of this destructive emotion.

Why do we hate? And how can we stop?

Related questions: Why do we like what we like? How does your vocabulary influence how you think? What do you do that you shouldn’t? How can we encourage debate? What words have the most power?

 

How Do You Think Others See You?

When I turned 30, I asked my friends to provide a one word description of my best feature or my most prominent characteristic. I was curious about what they appreciated about my personality and the way I acted. While I considered myself fairly self-aware, I wanted to know if my friends saw me the same way I saw myself.

Before I started to get responses, I expected that the answers would fall into two or three broad categories. In my own mind, I was smart, I was funny, and I was friendly.

Once the answers started to roll in, however, I was surprised. In all, I asked maybe 30 people, and I got 30 different answers. While I didn’t expect that every response would be different, the thing that really astonished me was the wide variety of answers. Loyalty, eyes, conversation, creativity, honesty, goofiness. They did not easily fit into the categories I envisioned.

Different people value different things. It took me 30 years to learn this lesson, but it was a major step in expanding my empathy skills. Now I regularly try to view how other people might see the world, including how I fit into it.

I also learned something else from this exercise: every relationship I have is unique. While I might be a constant to my relationships, each person I interact with brings their own personality, their own experiences, their own vantage point to our mutual association.

Which brings me to this week’s question: How do you think others see you? How would you like them to see you? What can you do to change how others see you? Are you externally self-aware?

Related questions: What are our responsibilities to others? What do we have in common? What makes you you? How do you judge yourself?

How Can We Become Better Listeners?

Listening to others is hard. If someone else says something you don’t agree with, the overwhelming impulse is not to listen, but to explain why you disagree.

But that impulse is not always correct. Often, you have to hear why someone believes something before you can try and change their mind. And that means it is important to listen to what they have to say, no matter how wrong-headed or incorrect you might think they are.

As a society, we are currently divided into two (or more) isolated camps. I often hear that we don’t talk to each other, but I think the problem is really that we don’t listen to each other.

Beyond our political or social climate, studies in management show that to make an effective team, the members of that team need to feel that they are heard. To get team investment in a particular strategy or course of action, all team members need to feel they have a stake in setting that course.

Even when arguing with a spouse or a romantic partner, it’s possible to hear the words, but to miss the underlying message that is causing the disagreement.

In each of these cases, listening to others is important. And yet it is a difficult skill to learn, to really listen to what others have to say. It seems like it should be easy to do — after all, we all know how much we want to be heard ourselves, so why do we find it so hard to allow others to feel like they are heard?

I think that maybe it is because we feel no one listens to us that makes us bad listeners. If I feel that the person I am talking to isn’t listening to me, then my effort is on making them hear me, not on hearing them.

So how can we break this cycle? How can we listen to someone else, and let them know that what they have to say is heard, so that they in turn can be willing to hear what we have to say? What are the tools that allow us to do that? How can we sort through the extraneous information, like insults or unnecessary detail, to really hear what is at the core of another’s message?

How can we become better listeners?

Related questions: What are our responsibilities to others? What is necessary to change your mind? What do we have in common? How can we encourage debate?