“I Hate People” – What to Do When You Don’t Like People

Scientifically reviewed by Viktor Sander B.Sc., B.A.

If you’re like me, you’re naturally inclined to not like people.

Here’s what I’ve learned after years of studying how people work, and why it seems like everyone gets along just fine while we’re the only ones who seem to think “I hate people”.

Do you agree with any of the following statements?

  • Most people feel shallow and stupid
  • Many of those you’ve actually invested time and emotion in have ended up betraying you
  • You’ve come to realize that beneath the surface, people actually don’t care about others and lose interest in hanging out when it doesn’t suit them
  • You’re fed up with small talk and superficial niceness
  • You sometimes come home after a day of having to interact with others and think “I hate people

If you scored one or more positive responses to the questions above, this guide is for you.

Sections

    1. Pros and cons of hating people
    2. Understanding how people work
    3. Why do people LOVE meaningless small talk?
    4. Cognitive obstacles that trap us in hate

Pros and cons of hating people

When it can be good to dislike or hate people

It’s common to be fed up with and even hate people. A-type personalities (We who value getting things done over chit-chatting and exchanging pleasantries) are inclined to not like people.[1]

Researchers call this trait hostility toward the world.

Differences between A-type-B-type personalities.

As you can see in the image, hostility has its value. For example, if someone has to get things done, it can help to be aggressive. Less agreeable people tend to be more successful.[2] They dare to stand up and fight for what’s important to them when others prioritize not stepping on anyone’s toes.

Look at people like Steve Jobs, Angela Merkel, Elon Musk, Theresa May, and Bill Gates. They’re super successful, but they can also seem like real jerks.

2. When it can be a problem to dislike or hate people

If you’re like me, you can easily get fed up with people. But you also want a human connection. Even though some part of you has broken up with the rest of humanity, another part of you still wants to keep in touch with others.

Perhaps you’re still on the lookout for that unicorn – a person who isn’t shallow or stupid.

When hating people isolates us it becomes a problem. Why? Because no matter what we think, we’re social animals. We need human contact.

Thousands of years ago, our ancestors learned the hard way that having a small tribe of friends was the difference between life and death. When the neighbor tribe attacked, you’d better hope you’d have people around that you could trust in.

We can’t put the finger on it, but being alone just doesn’t feel right. Even if we wished we could just press a button to make us OK with not having to meet people.

Understanding how people work

It’s easy to see that people can be egoistical, stupid, and disloyal. And it’s easy to hate people when that is all we see. But that is only one side of the same coin. To get a deeper understanding of where hate for people comes from, we need to examine these perceptions about how people work.

1. People are egoistical

People socialize and have friends for egoistic reasons.

  1. Why do people want friends? To not feel lonely. (An egoistic need)
  2. Why do people want to meet up with a friend? To have a good time = experience a positive emotion (An egoistic need)
  3. Why do people want to go do things with their friends? To share an experience. (An egoistic need evolved throughout history)

Now, we shouldn’t forget that you and I are evolved in the exact same way. We ALSO want to have (non-stupid) friends to not feel lonely, to experience positive emotions, and to share experiences.

TAKE AWAY:

Yes, people are egoistic. But so are you and I. Egoistic socializing is a system so hardwired that neither we nor anyone else is going to change that any time soon.

Important: We can wish people were different. But it’s not that everyone has a bad attitude. It’s about us humans being wired in a way we can’t unwire. We have to accept this fact about us humans, just like we have to accept that we all have to go to the toilet.

In other words:

If we don’t cater to people’s emotional needs, they won’t enjoy being with us and disappear from our lives. Not because they’re mean, but because we’re all wired this way. Let me show you what I mean…

2. Why people don’t care, lose interest, or betray

Imagine any of these two scenarios:

Scenario 1: The “supportive” friend

Say that you went through a tough time, and you had a friend you talked with that about. The friend is supportive at first, but then, as the weeks or months pass by, you realize that they don’t really care and were just being polite. They become worse and worse at returning your calls and seem to ignore you.

Before we go into why, here’s another scenario.

Scenario 2: The betrayer

Let’s say you’ve been together with your partner to the point where you really trust him or her. You trust that person because they’ve reassured you how much you mean to them. You let your guard down and open up a side of you few ever get to see. Then suddenly, without warning, the ultimate betrayal: They let you know they’ve met someone else. Or even worse, YOU find out that they’ve met someone else.

WHY ARE PEOPLE LIKE THIS?

Well, there will always be assholes. But if it’s a pattern in our lives, it could be that we’ve been so preoccupied with our own emotional needs that we’ve forgotten about theirs.

Our emotional needs (when it comes to friendships) are:

  1. Feeling listened to
  2. Feeling appreciated
  3. Experiencing similarity (We need to be able to relate and see ourselves in others)

If there’s a pattern in our lives that people disappear, we need to ask ourselves:

  • Do we make them feel heard?
  • Do we show them appreciation?
  • Do we focus on similarities or differences between them and ourselves?

We can talk about hardships with friends, but if it’s the main thing we talk about, they’ll feel drained of energy. Most people will prefer to be with friends who make them feel recharged.

Before we go fully misanthropic, we need to keep in mind that we all work fundamentally in the same way.

TAKE AWAY:

We all want friends who we like being around—people who make us feel good. And if we want them to stick around, we need to make sure they feel good being around us too. People don’t flake on everyone, just the ones they don’t enjoy being around.

3. Are people stupid?

There’s a saying that boggles my mind:

Half the world’s population has an intelligence below the median.

It’s true by definition – somewhere around 4 billion people are below the median not just in intelligence, but in any capacity you can measure.

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So whenever I see something happening in the world that I can’t explain because it’s too stupid, I remind myself that a big chunk of the population just isn’t very smart.

But that’s only half the story. Here’s the other side of it:

Half the world population’s intelligence is above the median.

I consider myself a reasonably smart person. I score high on IQ tests. Yet, I meet people who are so intelligent that they blow me out of the water. These people are proof that we can’t say “People are stupid”, because it doesn’t hold up. Some are, some aren’t.

In fact, it’s stupid to say that people are stupid because it’s a gross simplification.

I’ve learned that we can’t use “People are stupid” as a reason for not socializing. A large chunk of the population is really really smart (smarter than you and I). We can learn to make friends with them and have amazing, fulfilling relationships.

TAKE AWAY:

We shouldn’t let stupid people discourage us from going out and befriending smart people.

Why do people LOVE meaningless small talk?

In many ways, small talk can be stupid. It can be shallow. It can be fake. And it’s easy to hate people for their seemingly endless appetite for something so hollow. But that is only one aspect of small talk. Let us look deeper at how small talk actually works.

1. The hidden purpose of small talk

You’re at a dinner and everyone seems obsessed with talking about meaningless stuff. The weather. Gossip. How nice the food is. You think to yourself: “I can’t be the only sane person here”. So you try changing gear.

You bring up something that’s actually interesting to talk about. Philosophy, world problems, politics, psychology, just anything that isn’t lobotomized. People look uncomfortable, some seem to just stare at you. You end up regretting even trying.

WHY ARE PEOPLE LIKE THIS?

When I delved into social psychology, I got a surprise: I learned that small talk has a very specific purpose. (If everyone does something seemingly meaningless, there’s often a hidden meaning behind it.)

Small talk is two humans just making noise with their mouths while a thousand things happen under the surface:

We pick up on the meta-communication of the other person. We do this by checking:

  • If they seem friendly or hostile
  • If they seem stressed (maybe that means that they hide something)
  • If they seem to be on the same intellectual level
  • What their social energy level is
  • Their social status level in the group
  • If they seem confident or have low self-esteem
  • And much more.

All to figure out if this is a person we should befriend or stay away from.

These are things we determine subconsciously while we talk about the weather and how we look forward to those chicken tenders.

2. What we can learn from socially savvy people

When I made friends with extremely socially skilled people in my late twenties, I learned that they viewed small talk in a different way than I did.

This is what they taught me:

You need to talk about insignificant things to make people comfortable talking about significant things.

Today, I can confirm this:

I have amazing relationships with friends that I talk about deep, interesting things with every day. But when we’d just met, we made small talk (while we tried to figure out if we were a match).

Saying no to small talk = Saying no to new friendships.

3. How to not get stuck in small talk

So that’s the inner workings of small talk. It gives people time to subconsciously figure each other out.

With that said, we don’t want to get STUCK in it. A few minutes of small talk is usually enough. After that, most people get bored. We have to transition from small talk to the interesting stuff: People’s thoughts, dreams, fascinating concepts, and other interesting topics.

You might like this article about how to get past the small talk.

Cognitive obstacles trapping us in hate

1. The self-fulfilling prophecy of hating people

Here’s the wheel of thoughts and inaction I was stuck in.

Main premise: People are stupid

Wheel of thoughts that increased my dislike for people:

  1. Don’t bother to make small talk
  2. No opportunities to form new connections appear
  3. No one to talk with about meaningful things
  4. Thought people were shallow
  5. Developed a negative outlook on life
  6. Existing friends became exhausted by my negativity
  7. I concluded that people are stupid
  8. Repeat

Then I learned to start with a new premise:

Main premise: Some people are worth befriending

Wheel of thoughts that increased my like for people:

  1. Recognize the value of small talk
  2. Desire to practice and improve small talk skills
  3. Learn how to get past small talk and connect
  4. Form new connections
  5. Cater to the needs of oneself and one’s friends which deepens friendships
  6. Good friends act as proof that there are great people
  7. Gets motivated to continue improving socially
  8. Repeat

If you want to go deeper into the subject, check out my guide on how to make friends when you hate everyone.

2. Check if you have trust issues

If you feel that you hate everyone – or almost everyone – it might be a sign that you struggle to trust other people. Maybe you have been betrayed in the past or you have seen how much it has hurt others when they have been betrayed.

Feeling that you hate everyone can be exhausting. Learning to trust other people, even just a little bit, can help you to relax around others and start to build up a support network.

Learning to trust other people can be a slow process. Don’t be tempted to force yourself to override your instincts. That can often be a way for you to self-sabotage, allowing you to say “See, I knew people can’t be trusted”.

Instead, take small risks to overcome trust issues with friends. Offer small pieces of personal information that don’t feel too uncomfortable. Over time, you may find that your distrust is reduced. A good therapist can help you to work on and overcome your trust issues.

We recommend BetterHelp for online therapy, since they offer unlimited messaging and a weekly session, and are cheaper than going to a therapist's office.

Their plans start at $64 per week. If you use this link, you get 20% off your first month at BetterHelp + a $50 coupon valid for any SocialSelf course: Click here to learn more about BetterHelp.

(To receive your $50 SocialSelf coupon, sign up with our link. Then, email BetterHelp’s order confirmation to us to receive your personal code. You can use this code for any of our courses.)

3. Why other people’s happiness can be so aggravating

When things feel rough for you, being around people who are super happy can be exhausting. This is especially true if you’re suffering from depression or anxiety disorders.

This is partly because we often create a story surrounding how perfect their lives must be. The thing is that we never know what someone else is going through. Lots of people whose lives look happy and easy from the outside are deeply unhappy in private.

The next time you feel yourself becoming angry at someone for how easy their life is, or even hating them, remember that lots of people only show the positives in their lives to others. Remind yourself that you don’t know the full story.

Social media posts, in particular, often create an inaccurately positive impression of other people’s lives. If you are particularly struggling with other peoples’ happiness, consider taking a break from social media for a week or two. Check out this article on how social media can contribute to loneliness.

4. Hating society isn’t the same as hating people

Lots of us get angry at society in general. This can be because of the social rules we feel pressured to follow, the problems we see being ignored, or the way we feel that we’ve been treated unfairly. This can create negative feelings about the world around us and the way that people tolerate these things.

Hating society and social rules doesn’t mean that we hate everyone.

When I was at school, I only had a few friends. There were maybe 1 or 2 of us who really understood each other. At the time, it felt like that meant that I would always struggle to find people I liked and who understood me.

The thing is, there were only about 150 people in my year at school. If I could find one person who shared my beliefs and frustrations in a group of 150, basic math suggests that I should be able to find 112,000 in New York.

I bet that, if you try, you can think of at least a few people you like and respect. There are always people out there who share your worldview and who understand your frustrations. The next time you feel that you hate society, remind yourself that there are thousands of people who share those feelings and try to find like-minded people.

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David Morin is the founder of SocialSelf. He's been writing about social skills since 2012. Follow on Twitter or read more.

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77 Comments

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  1. You need to be with people if you want happiness, but people give you the worst suffering. And there is nothing you can do about it(almost)—very sick reality this one.

    Reply
  2. I wish other people just simply enjoyed being alone as I do. If everyone enjoyed their own company, making friends would be an extra sprinkle on top, a bonus of sorts. Nobody would be SEEKING friendship and when it came around, it’d be genuine. This is a fairytale of course, but one can dream. The best course of action is to be happy alone, make friends along the way, and be accepting of the pain life brings.

    Reply
  3. If you are looking to make connections then you really do not hate people. I do hate people and hate your idiotic and confused point of view and article as well.

    Reply
  4. I was enjoying your thoughts immensely…until I read “…talk to a therapist….” Thanks, but no thanks. I prefer to avoid people who have been educated well beyond their levels of intelligence. After all, if I need or want to tell someone about what I am “thinking” or “feeling,” I’ll just talk to a stranger since those two words, “thinking” and “feeling,” have now been used synonymously for so long that neither have any meaning at all and that therapist ain’t gonna do nothing more profound than say, “Time’s up. See you next week. Don’t forget to pay on your way out.” So maybe it’s just me but after 69 years on this planet, I’m following the path of least resistance: ‘Tis easier to “hate” them than give ’em the benefit of the doubt, over and over again. So the best I got these days is “Do no harm.” After that? Aside from those few who, for reasons I will never understand, allowed me to share their lives, I will stick with the solitude of my soul.

    Reply
    • Yup cannot agree more.
      Better to drown in your own loneliness than face the frustration of trying to mix it up with society …. gets a bit hard to keep extending the hand of social interest when you realize that people are generally self-absorbed ignorant and arrogant F^%$kwits.
      I am 54 and feel like I have almost had enough of societal acceptance and tolerance when all I see around me is laziness, contentment in so many meaningless things, a blatant lack of constructive thought, and selfish pride and entitlement. Would rather be a hermit or dead.

      Reply
      • So true. People are basically mindless, thoughtless, selfish, narcissistic, and just plain rude! They always seem to have an agenda. I’ve been betrayed so much, that I wish I had an agenda with others, but since I don’t, I am alone. I’m okay with it, but I still need human connection. The only ones who are attracted to me are the broken, and they want to break me even more than they are, so I continue to push people away. They will abandon me anyway when they can’t get what they want, so what’s the point?

      • Same. I’m 34. Often feel like people are vile wicked trash. Frequently wish I could go full hermit or just die.

  5. I am so glad I found this article. You stated exactly how I feel and made sense of this. You really understand and get it. Thanks so much I will definitely take the quiz and training.

    Reply
  6. There aren’t any smart people to converse with, just sell-outs or self-entitled losers who think they already know everything.
    No one will ever care about your “feelings”. No one wants to.
    No one will help you with anything you care to accomplish. You will be left to do it alone.
    If anyone dares think otherwise, you are in for big trouble in your lifetime.
    Truth Always Hurts. Human Beings Always Choose Evil.

    Reply
    • While I agree, what is a solution to the human necessity (psychological health, especially later in life) of social interaction?

      I’m not talking about the cashier at the grocery store and the people we work with. Those unpleasant interactions are covered by putting up a persona, as most others do.

      Again, it’s the mental health (social stimulus) aspect that worries me and I don’t want to pay for an expensive counselor just to fill a phycological need, a small fraction of my time.

      Reply

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