Spiritual teacher and guru Dr. Wayne Dyer eloquently summed up the dark contrast of hostility when he said “Loving people live in a loving world. Hostile people live in a hostile world. Same world.” Some bouts of hostility are, for argument’s sake, understandable. Catching a cheating lover (twice), getting your buttons repeatedly pushed by an ungrateful boss, or getting rear-ended in traffic in your pristine, new car is enough to push some people from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde. However, for those whom hostility is a staple of their personality, the world is nothing but a constant barrage of cheating lovers, ungrateful bosses, or rear-ending.
When we analyzed 6000 test-takers from Queendom on their level of hostility, our statistics reveal that on average, people experience a mild amount of hostility (average score of 43, on a scale from 0 to 100), generally expressed in the form of verbal aggression. Gender comparisons reveal minor differences in overall level of hostility, although men tend to be more judgmental (hostile cognition) and experience higher levels of contempt/disdain (hostile emotion), while women experience higher levels of anger (hostile emotion). Age comparisons indicate that hostility tends to decrease with age, along with the negative emotions, thoughts, and behaviors associated with it.
I think it’s important to clarify the difference between hostility and anger, because they are not interchangeable. Hostility is more than an emotion – it’s an attitude. People with hostile attitudes not only have a negative outlook on life, they also get in trouble more often for aggressive behavior and, perhaps not surprisingly, are also more likely to have problems with high blood pressure. And for you psych buffs out there, hostility is one of the negative and unhealthy attributes of Type A Personality. People with Type A are at a higher risk for heart attacks and strokes. Puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?
And it doesn’t end there! Hostility can also impact the type of habits we pick up. In our test sample, those who were smokers scored higher on hostility than non-smokers and former smokers. Those who consumed more than 20 alcoholic drinks per week showed more hostile behavior in the form of direct physical aggression against others, and indirect physical aggression against inanimate objects. Here are some other statistics we found in our comparison of hostile and non-hostile people:
- 68% of hostile people (compared to 2% of non-hostile people) admitted to taking revenge out on someone by destroying or damaging the person’s property.
- 69% of hostile people (compared to 6% of non-hostile people) stated that seeing flaws in others “disgusts” them.
- 74% of hostile people (compared to 4% of non-hostile people) will readily point out someone’s mistakes/flaws, no matter how minor.
- 74% of hostile people (compared to 4% of non-hostile people) admitted to talking about someone behind their back in order to purposely damage the person’s reputation.
- 76% of hostile people (compared to 4% of non-hostile people) use intimidation to get their way.
- 76% of hostile people (compared to 8% of non-hostile people) stated that, when a friend/family member does or says something stupid, they can’t resist embarrassing them.
- 81% of hostile people (compared to 10% of non-hostile people) will “rub it in” when they are right.
- 85% of hostile people (compared to 49% of non-hostile people) are hard on themselves when they fail.
- 87% of hostile people (compared to 8% of non-hostile people) admitted that they get angry over things that most people wouldn’t consider a big deal.
- 87% of hostile people (compared to 5% of non-hostile people) are purposely mean to people they don’t like.
- 88% of hostile people (compared to 16% of non-hostile people) tend to hold grudges.
- 88% of hostile people (compared to 7% of non-hostile people) throw, break, or punch inanimate objects when angry.
- 95% of hostile people (compared to 36% of non-hostile people) use sarcasm when speaking to others.
- In most situations in which they have become extremely angry at someone, 78% of hostile people (compared to 4% of non-hostile people) physically retaliated.
While we absolutely recommend professional help for serious hostility issues, here are a few tips for reducing the hostile emotions, thoughts, and behaviors that accompany hostility:
Count to ten.
Take a moment to collect yourself before acting. During this time, put the situation in perspective and consider whether it merits your reaction.
Look at the positive side of other people’s actions and behavior.
Train yourself to be more optimistic about others by doing exercises like the following: The next time you spot someone who irks you, try to put yourself in his or her shoes. What must it be like to be that person? If you stretch your mind and challenge your imagination, you may find that you are truly able to understand others. This is a wonderful capability that will help you accept and appreciate both the people around you and all of humanity.
Change the way you think.
This is referred to as cognitive restructuring. Our habitual thoughts and reactions are reprogrammable – if we’re willing to put in the effort to change them:
- Avoid negative words when feeling upset (“never,” “can’t,” “hate,” etc.).
- Try to keep the issue in perspective. Ask yourself if the situation or person that upset you will matter to you in 2 days, 2 weeks, 2 months, 2 years.
- Try to find the positive in the situation. For example, “I learned a lesson from this experience.”