disliking others is in our DNA

We’re all human and easily fall into the trap of disliking others. But what is fascinating, is that when we are the ones who are disliked, we fall to pieces and go down a rabbit hole of self-loathing.


The truth is that disliking is baked into our DNA. In the caveman days, someone who was not the same was seen as a threat who may bring disease or attack the clan. Therefore, our brain region associated with fear and aggression springs to life when we encounter someone different. If you perceive someone has hurt you, the fear becomes rational and, as we record bad experiences with that person, our negative thoughts get stronger. (Remember, you get what you expect.) And, even if they do something positive, our brain is trained to focus on the negatives. Disliking spirals.


Disliking fills a human need. People form stronger bonds when talking about their dislike of someone than their positive feelings towards them. According to Vanessa Van Edwards, the four primary reasons people hate are:

  • People want a scapegoat. It feels better to funnel your negative energy into blaming someone else for your problems than to take responsibility for your situation and confront your behaviors. By joining a hate group, for instance, you are supported by persons who are like minded and have feelings of belongings.
  • They’re lonely and seeking connections, even hateful ones. It’s easier to make connections by dissing others rather than proving you are an interesting and valuable companion.
  • They fear the unknown. When a new person appears, fears mount that the group dynamics will change. Sharing hatred of the outsider strengthens the bonds of existing group members.
  • Their insecurities get the best of them. Highly insecure people will often compare themselves to others and conclude the other person is better than them. Sometimes the person possesses common traits the individual does not want to acknowledge. Thus, they speak out against these individuals.


When I am around someone I dislike, I go into overdrive, forcing myself to remember that the individual is a human being and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect no matter how much I dislike what they stand for.

Remember that disliking comes at a cost. Researchers have discovered that when we hear someone talking about other people, we impose the content of what’s said onto the speaker. For instance, at a book workshop run by an agent, she badmouthed and belittled the people sending her queries while we were at dinner. My impression of her changed and I determined she would not be my ideal agent. Be sure you know where others stand before engaging in negative talk.


I’ve found that when I know others dislike me for whatever reason, if I am nice, it throws them into a tizzy. So, I’ve made it my policy to try this tactic, especially at work or social events where you must be around the individual. I know this sounds mean, but I take personal delight in knowing that I have made them uncomfortable.  And what are they going to do? Complain that I am nice?

Rebecca Fishbein, in her article, “How Not to Care When People Don’t Like You” makes these suggestions:

  • It’s okay to feel the pain. Rejections sucks and it is perfectly normal. Try not to dwell on them.
  • Know that it’s not (totally) your fault. Humans have a preference in terms of personality. Remember, its not that your personality is bad, its different. And others want to hang out with persons who are similar. Then, too, people align with others who meet their needs. In other words, you may not bring to the table what they need.
  • But watch for signs of your own bad behavior. If you find that others not liking you is a pattern, you should take an unbiased look at your own behavior.
  • Remind yourself that making new friends is no easy task. If you are moving to a new workplace or community, start slowly and get the lay of the land. Focus on those who seem receptive to you.
  • Spend extra time with the people who do like you.
  • And tell the haters to suck it. In your head only!


Caveman Image courtesy of Macrovector on Freepik.


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