We all know someone who talks smack constantly. Whatever it is; a casual conversation, a song on the radio, the latest Netflix binge, that person is spewing venom about it. It’s hilarious to hear what the hater thinks, especially when it’s obscene or entirely offensive. The hater becomes enraptured in the passion of their negativity and judgments, and thinks they know more than every other person in the room. Their all-knowing status makes them the supreme judge with final verdict on what’s dumb, ugly, worthless, pointless, or generally cringy and horrible. You can only laugh or roll your eyes, hoping they’re not serious.
I have the absolute pleasure and pain of being the mother to a hater child. My youngest son, Tierney, was seemingly born a hater. We nicknamed him Stewie (i.e. Family Guy’s hateful little cutie) by the age of two. While most infants and toddlers frolicked on the playground and squealed in delight at being pushed on the swings, my son kept a stone-cold face, expressionless other than to express discontent if you dared stop pushing his swing. I made funny faces and sang silly songs to get him to laugh and be playful. Nothing. He looked at me, stoic and unblinking, like I’m a complete idiot.
By the time he was two, I gave up trying to break through his steely front. Tierney is eleven now. And that look he gives me that says, “You’re an idiot,” is backed up by incessant hater talk. My son hates on almost everything and if other people like it, it’s dumb. Some of his classics are worth mentioning. People only watch Friends, because they are lonely. The show sucks, and people who watch it need to get their own friends. The iPhone sucks for many reasons, which he took the time to list one evening, because it was that serious. His top two reasons were “durability issues” and “lack of emulation.”
People who watch Friends and have an iPhone are dumb. I am his mother and qualify in both of those categories. This does not deter his opinion. In fact, he’s learned how to perfectly creep under his mother’s skin by calling me a “Karen” whenever I need to be assertive. Ouch, child. I am not a “Karen!” Don’t get me started on what he thinks about parents who don’t vaccinate their children, fans of Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift, and flat-earthers.
He gets away with this because he’s cute and witty, still little and pre-pubescent. But, very soon, it won’t be so adorable when he cuts people down and hates on the world. He’s very hardcore about his negativity, so if someone likes something he hates, he then feels compelled to dislike that person. I sense a lot of obstacles in his future, if he continues on this path. Haters just get in their own way, and limit their prospective opportunities by hating instead of collaborating. Haters are not happy.
While this is all very entertaining most of the time, I was moved to put a stop to the ceaseless deprecation when he began consistently directing it at his older brother. No matter what his brother did or said or wore, Tierney cut him down, calling him ugly or stupid, and throwing shade in his general direction constantly. So, I came up with a new rule that for every negative or derogatory statement out of his mouth, he had to come up with two positive or constructive statements. I explained that this would be practice for him to shift his mindset from hate to love.
This new rule didn’t take well at all. Tierney couldn’t come up with two positive things to say about the many things he hated on. He struggled to come up with one, but two was impossible for him. He got frustrated and decided that if he had to follow this rule, then everyone else did too. That meant his brother and I were under the same obligation to counter our negative output with two positive, uplifting remarks.
Though I could quickly pick up on Tierney’s over-the-top negativity, once we changed the rule to include me, I was forced to notice just how much of a hater I was being too. I was surprised by how much I was complaining and thinking things sucked. It was the traffic, work emails, the weather. These were little insignificant irritations that I caught and had to counteract with a positive and grateful attitude.
Because of this, and in order to equip myself with the tools needed to help convert my son from toxic to thoughtful, I’ve compiled 6 types of negative attitudes and 7 helpful ways to counteract them before the toxicity slips out of our mouths or adversely impacts our state of mind and our future.
The 6 Attitudes and Behaviors of a Hater
If you find yourself indulging in any of the following, you are a hater. Don’t despair, there is hope for you! Nobody wants to be the toxic one, and I’ve outlined a few strategies to shift out of a negative mental state when you notice it happening to you.
1. Negative Commentary: This is easy to spot, but unfortunately so common, it is easily overlooked as normal. Some of the ways we engage in negative commentary include criticism, disrespect, bad mouthing, and demotivating. Pessimism, criticism, and unsupportive comments meant to deter one’s ambitions are negative scripts used by haters.
Examples include the basic name calling (e.g. moron, idiot, dumbass), destructive criticism (e.g. your hat makes your nose look big and ugly), and demotivating, unsupportive insinuations (e.g. that will never work, because you don’t know what you’re doing and the choices you make are all wrong).
2. Withholding Compliments or Praise: Haters are unable to acknowledge someone’s achievements or admirable qualities. When you share news of a promotion at work, buying a house or acceptance into a graduate program, a hater will either diminish your achievement (e.g. Everybody has a degree, so it won’t help you get a better job) or stay silent, withholding a friendly “Congrats” or a warm “Great job!” This extends to not liking someone’s social media posts, even if they are looking at every status update and picture you post.
3. The Miserable Hater: This is your general grump. They wake up expecting their day to suck and complain about almost everything throughout the day. They are often passive aggressive and covertly antagonistic, using sarcasm to hide their dismal thoughts about life. They like very few people, yet they focus their criticism on these people, with an air of pride in the way they reserve this negativity and harshness only for the ones they care for most.
4. The Dramatic Hater: This is your reactive, entitled type of toxic personality. They get easily offended and then lash out, making sure to hit below the belt each time. Their negativity gets downright dirty, including manipulation, deceit, backstabbing, and a large heap of chaos and drama. This hater is harder to spot, because when they are not being vindictive, they can appear warm and sincere. However, you are never safe from the dramatic hater, because they take things very personally and will turn on you instantly.
5. The Paranoid Hater: This hater finds a reason to be suspicious of everything. You can’t make them a homemade meal without them wondering if you have poisoned their food and secretly want them dead. They hate most institutions and don’t trust the government, leaning toward conspiracy theories and fear-based propaganda. The paranoid haters will find a reason why you should not follow your dreams or support a humanitarian cause or trust society, causing extreme anxiety and confusion in those around them.
6. The Controlling Hater: This type works hard to convince you to live life according to their rules and stipulations, and if you make any choices that differ from their prescribed plan for your life, they will demean and destroy you. They want to control you because they care and believe they know what’s best for you. Most often the controlling hater uses criticism and paranoia as their weapons of choice, but manipulation, bad-mouthing, and unsupportive insinuations are also prominent.
The 7 Ways to Counteract The Hater In You
If you spotted any of these hater attitudes and behaviors in yourself, you are on the right track, because acknowledging these tendencies is the first step to shifting out of a negative mindset into a healthier, reasonable state of mind. Use some of the following techniques to practice changing your mind whenever you slip into hater mode. Helpful hint: set an alarm on your phone to remind yourself throughout the day to be aware of any negative thoughts you need to work on.
1.Transform your language: This is the technique I tried to use with Tierney when he was hating on his brother and everything else. For every negative comment directed at a person or thing, at least two positive comments must follow. My son is pretty extreme, so it was nearly impossible for him to come up with two positive things. If you have the same problem, then make the negative words you used less intense or less negative. Using the example above, “your hat makes your nose look big and ugly” can transform into “your hat doesn’t look that great on you,” or “I’d like to see you in another hat.” That’s better!
2. Use the “How would that make you feel?” technique: This is basically “do to others what you would have them do to you.” If you wouldn’t like it said to you, don’t say it to someone else. If you wouldn’t appreciate a certain attitude directed at you, don’t take on that attitude toward someone else. Disrespect and negativity will sever your relationships and cause people to avoid you. Wouldn’t you want to keep your distance from that type of toxicity?
3. Be grateful for anything: This is similar to transforming your language, except it doesn’t have to be related to the thing you are hating on. If you catch yourself hating, stop the hate and think of all the things you are grateful for in that moment. I’ve found myself being grateful for running water, paved roads, and the photoreceptors in my eyeballs that allow me to see stunning colors. There is always so much to be grateful for, and shifting your mind to gratitude is a positive change.
4. Mindfulness: Open your mind up to what is good right now, instead of focusing on the bad stuff. If you start thinking the hat makes his nose look big and ugly, then think about how much you might like the hat itself, or the color of his hair, or the comfortable seat you’re sitting on while observing the big ugly nose. It’s an exercise designed to make positive thinking automatic.
5. Give out compliments: When you get sucked into hating, do your best to hold back and instead give out a compliment. This act will let your negative ruminations dissipate quickly and you’ll feel kind and accepting, which is a positive change in your internal state.
6. Indulge in what you like: If you’re anything like my son, you can go on forever hating on something. Imagine the energy shift if you could be just as passionate about something you love! If you’re on a roll complaining or thinking things suck, let that go and start talking up what you’re really loving right now, from music, games, food, books, make-up, the possibilities are endless.
7. Honor your negative attitude, but focus on healthier habits: Trying to force yourself to get rid of negative thoughts will not work. As the saying goes, whatever you resist, persists. It’s important to accept and be comfortable with the fact that 80% of our thoughts are negative, according to Russ Harris, author of The Happiness Trap. It is part of our human nature.
It’s stressful to worry about every negative thought and counteracting it. Don’t beat yourself up if you keep hating on people, and don’t consider yourself a failure if you can’t stop trying to control everyone. Honor those feelings inside you by acknowledging they are rooted deep within our own personal struggles. Meanwhile, practice focusing your mind on healthier outlooks, without self-condemnation.
Be kind out there.