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Tag Archives: positive communication

Why We’re So Hateful To Strangers

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I was speaking today with my friend Mary Lou Quinlan about the hateful responses I’ve received to some of my Forbes and Huffington Post pieces in the past year.  Most often these furious responses come from readers of large websites such as Yahoo! or MSNBC where my posts have been picked up. An interesting phenomenon is that the more positive and upbeat my posts are (about creating a more satisfying career, for instance), the more vitriolic the response.

I shared with Mary Lou that I’ve been utterly floored when complete strangers write comments on my posts that are filled with anger, envy, rage, victimization, hopelessness, and worse.  And folks make wild assumptions about my life and my financial situation not knowing anything about the reality of my life, as if to say, “Sure, Kathy can talk about a satisfying career – look what she’s got going for her!” I’ve had to scratch my head at the rageful and critical projections and assumptions people make about complete strangers.  As a trained therapist and coach who works with thousands of professionals each year, I’ve learned this – what people write and say is much more about them than about the subject of their communications.

The Human Potential For Cruelty

There’s been powerful research conducted by scientists proving that humans are much more willing than you’d guess to inflict pain and suffering on strangers when authority figures tell us to.  Further, there have been scores of recent research studies on cyber bullying and online cruelty, which is on the rise particularly amidst the teen and young adult population.  One recent study revealed that 88% of social media-using teens have witnessed other people being mean or cruel on social network sites.

Why  are we so eager to send our hate to those we can’t see?

Below are the top six reasons I believe we feel free to hate on complete strangers (especially online writers):

1)      Our pent up rage from our overwhelming lives has to be released somehow

2)      We think that because we can’t see these people, they don’t hurt when they’re assaulted

3)      We mistakenly assume that running folks down will bolster us up (it doesn’t)

4)      Attacking strangers relieves our anxiety and pain (for a minute), but has fewer real-life consequences than confronting the people we truly need to tell off

5)      These strangers (writers on Forbes, for instance) represent authority figures – and authority (in general) sucks

6)      When writers discuss how to have a more successful life or how to take control of your life, it makes people who are feeling hopeless and helpless very mad

I’m not saying that readers shouldn’t share their heartfelt views and insights on issues that matter to them.  I am saying, however, that if you can’t express yourself without hateful, over-the-top emotion and irrationality, then you’ve got some big work to do.  It’s time to go inward and address your challenges rather than expend precious energy spewing outwardly.

Next time you want to hate on a writer who presents his or her views to create a conversation, I’d ask you think about this…remember that what you say on these posts (and everywhere you speak or write) is a mirror of what you think about yourself.  It reveals SO much more about you than about the person you’re attacking.  Do you really want to spend you timing crushing some stranger who’s simply sharing his/her views?  I think it might be time to actually DO something constructive about the pain and anger you feel, and handle it directly, in your own life and in your relationships, that truly the need the work.

So…who do you really want to tell off today, and isn’t it time you did something constructive about it?

Been Harshly Criticized Lately? What To Do When Others Try to Make You Wrong

This week, several friends and clients have mentioned to me that they’ve been severely criticized for their views and standpoints.   Anyone who has stood up for something they believe in — and been attacked for it — knows it’s challenging at best, devastating at worst.


What should you do if you’ve been harshly demeaned or criticized for your thoughts and views?


Here are five tips that have helped me tremendously as an author, speaker, and women’s advocate, to weather the storm of criticism, and come out on the other side feeling whole and confident:


1)       Remember, what people say is more about them than you

I learned in my therapy training that what comes out of someone’s mouth is more about them than you.  Much more.  Their views and words represent (and project) their years of cultural training, experience, upbringing, traumas, lessons, and biases (as well as their insights and wisdom based on their unique filter and history).  So remember that each individual has a custom-tailored view of life that may or may not fit your own.  It doesn’t have to.


2)       People who attack you are coming from a deeply fearful place

When someone attacks you verbally, they are coming from a deeply insecure and frightened place.  They’ve been rocked by what you’ve said and done, and feel they need to put you down.  Take a look at what you’ve said (and how you’ve said it) that may have instigated a defensive stance from someone else.  But remember that you don’t have to own how they respond to you.


3)       When someone wants to make you wrong for your beliefs, they often feel threatened by your out-of-the box thinking

I’ve noticed that when I present thinking that is different from the status-quo, it can lead to a harsh challenge.  Presenting views that ask others to question how things have been done for years, or shed light on trends or behaviors that need to be critically examined and revised, can ruffle people’s feathers.  They feel threatened that you want to expose something they’d prefer to remain hidden.  So be it.  But don’t let that stop you.


4)       Narcissists in our world abound

Narcissism is rampant in our society (those of you who live and work with one know what I mean!).  A narcissistic individual can’t tolerate being challenged, and needs to make you wrong if you disagree with them.  They’ll go to tremendous lengths to “prove” they are right (and superior).  If you have a narcissist in your life or work, you feel you can’t express yourself without being punished.  Pay attention to those who harshly criticize you for your different views – if they have narcissistic tendencies, realize that you can’t win with them.  Don’t engage, as it will prove only a lose/lose endeavor.  Just protect (and extract) yourself best you can from their harmful way of thinking and behaving.


5)       Finally, use it as a growth opportunity 

Stand up for what you believe in.  When others don’t agree with you, don’t doubt yourself and make yourself wrong.  Get connected to what you truly believe in, strengthen your boundaries, learn to deal effectively with rebukes, and remain steady in who you are and what you believe. 


But at the same time, use this criticism for your own learning and growth.  If your words have been hurtful and diminishing to others, perhaps it’s time to look at what may be longing to be healed or addressed inside of you.  Reconnect to compassion, understanding, and inclusion in your thoughts and words (and in your relationship with yourself and others).  Our world needs much less judgment, criticism, and pain, and much more love, strength, compassion, inclusiveness, and respect.


If you’ve been criticized harshly, take some time to fully explore your part in it and what you can learn from it.  In the process, show compassion for yourself and others, grow from the lesson, accept that you (and everyone else) is doing the best they can…then move forward.




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