Kevin Hogan

International Speaker

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Hostility, Criticism and Contempt in Your Life

If you or your spouse, family or friends, are intentionally communicating with the intent to harm, you must stop immediately. Hostility is something that no one should be involved in. There is no benefit to hostility for anyone. Harming others with words, generally used for sane communication, is a sign of serious emotional problem that needs to be corrected as soon as possible.

And it probably isn’t your job to tell the person that or to attempt to do it yourself.

Hostile communication

It’s pretty tough to have limited social options, stay home with loved ones all day or work under schedules that work around a crazy virus and not have all kinds of feelings of frustration.

People hurt the people they are (or have been) closest to and those they are closest to physically.

I’m a lot more likely to get irritated with my wife than I am the girl next door who I see in passing when I get the mail once or twice a week.

The same is true of course with everyone.

When YOUR level of irritation is ready to bridge to hostility your best action or response is going to be unsatisfying.

You will want revenge for what triggered this anger inside you. It’s NATURAL and HUMAN.

It’s also dangerous territory for the present and the future.

Emotions, body language, anger

Imagine someone is literally yelling at you as if you are 200 feet away. They are using language and emotion as a weapon.

When someone is throwing verbal knives at you, there are two responses in general after you do a quick assessment.


Does this person have a REAL point that warrants this reaction? In other words have you done damage to them to the degree it warrants to you being verbally abused.

If they do, then you can respond, “That is a good point. I get what you are saying. Please give me 30 minutes to calm down and I’ll look at it.”

(Your next response is, “OK I see you are pissed off, I will take 30 minutes to cool down and I’ll look at it.”)

That’s REALLY hard to do.

So is this:

Put your hands behind your back and keep them there. I’ve found sitting on the floor and letting the other person be MUCH bigger than me sometimes reduces another persons attack.

(It’s not easy to scream at someone who’s sitting on the floor and being as calm as possible.)

Your next option is to say, “I’ve got to go outside (or inside) and not say something that will trigger me to be unkind. I’ll be back in 30 minutes. I need to calm down and think a minute.”

If you judge a hostile person they will simply abuse you more, making you more likely to do and say something stupid. Every human has done this to someone and has experienced it as well.

If they have no point and they are hostile you need to then walking away in silence is probably as good as it’s going to get.

Anger turned hostile, critical or contemptuous is poison and could change the future of your life without making some urgent tweaks.

Is this also relevant to the office or your remote office? Of course.

It’s easy to be on both sides of a conversation that is filled with criticism, hostility and contempt. Yet, it doesn’t have to be that way.  So get rid of the poison.

Quick Definitions then getting the answers YOU want and NEED.

Criticism: Attacking someone’s personality or character, usually with blame, instead of IDENTIFYING a specific behavior.

Hostility: To be antagonistic toward someone as if they are an enemy.

Contempt: Disapproval tinged with disgust. Communication that is intended to insult or show disdain for another who is considered vile or worthless.

Contempt and hostility are fueled by thoughts of the other person’s incompetence or disgust. They are disgusting. You think they are stupid. How does this look and sound? And how are YOU the victim when it happens to you?


“You’re a jerk.”
“You’re a b_tch.”
“You’re a b_stard.”
“You’re an idiot.”
“You’re a fool.”
“You’re stupid.”
“You are incompetent.”

Nonverbal –

Roll your eyes when they say something.
Sigh heavily while they are communicating something to you.
Turn your back on them while they are talking.
Walk away from them while they are talking.

Covert Insults and Overt Humiliations Designed to Cause Real Pain In Others –

“Even Andy could get that one right.”
“If you really loved me, you’d lift a finger to help around the house.”
“You don’t even care about your kids.”
“You were never there when we really needed you.”
“Any kindergartner could figure that out, you moron.”
“You have serious psychological problems.”

hurt with words

Contempt Breeds Contempt

Here’s how that looks and what to do about it on the next page.

It’s true that contempt breeds contempt. Remember the last time you were involved in one of these conversations?

Mom – “What the hell are you doing?”
Son – “You told me to clean my room!”
“I told you to get the living room cleaned up because we have company coming, THEN to clean your room.”
“What’s the difference Mom, no one is coming for TWO hours?”
“That’s it. You have no respect. You are grounded.”
He looks at her in disbelief. Sits on his bed. Stares at her.
“What are you looking at?”
“Nothing. You’re crazy.”
“You will not speak to your Mother that way. You are grounded for one month! Now get this place clean. NOW!”

What happened here?

The son was cleaning his room. He probably should have been cleaning the living room first to prepare for company but he probably didn’t know why he should be cleaning the living room first.

Deep inside, the son felt put out that he had to clean his room and the living room. He didn’t mess up the living room after all. His toddling sister did. He doesn’t even go near the living room.

Deep inside, Mom felt like she was in a pressure cooker. Company coming in two hours and she has four hours of work to do. And this isn’t just any company this is hubby’s new client. A big one. The house has to be perfect. Tonight the pressure is on to make a really positive impression.

This is an example of how most people communicate all day long. Here is the next morning at work…

Boss: “Why aren’t you working on the Johnson account?”
Employee: “You told me to get the numbers for the Friedman account and the Johnson account updated today.”
“I told you that Johnson is going to be here in TWO hours. Get her account done THEN do the Friedman account. Does any of this make sense to you?”
“Both sets of numbers will be on your desk in the next hour.”
“I want the Johnson numbers NOW.”
“Fine.” (She drops the Friedman file. Grabs the Johnson file and returns to her desk.) “Is there anything else?”
“No. Just get that file to me ASAP.”

Deep inside, the office worker is feeling hurt and angry. She doesn’t feel trusted. She doesn’t feel as if her boss understands her competency level. She is angry that her boss felt it necessary to make a scene over NOTHING in front of the staff. The boss once again made her look bad for no reason. The file would have been done with no problem…and no time delay.

Humiliated for no reason

Ever have a person think they’re being nice to you and all you feel is like they are making your day a disaster. They’re going to have to be taught this lesson. Turn the page.

Deep inside, the boss felt that once again people just don’t get it. The top priority item gets second billing. What if there was an emergency or a problem and there wasn’t time to get the Johnson file done? Why don’t people do things in the order that make sense? This woman is as stupid as her son…except he’s 12 and has an excuse. Why does she keep this worker on? Probably because MOST of the time she does a good job, but THIS is just ridiculous.

The office worker goes home. She thinks all the way home that her boss is such a bitch.

“She really thinks I’m an idiot,” she mutters over the steering wheel. I hate her. I am going to quit. I will not put up with this insanity any longer. I can’t handle it. She always is on me. Why doesn’t she just let me work and do my job?

She pulls in the driveway. Husband is home.

“Hope he had a good day,” she says again over the steering wheel. She goes in. They hug, kiss, sit down and say hello for a minute.

“How was your day?”

“Oh, it was O.K. I’m sick of that witch though.”

“Did she say something again?”

“Yes, she was sticking her nose in my business again.”

“You know, next time she does that you should just tell her to leave and let you get your work done.”

“It’s not quite that easy. She is the boss ya’ know.”

“I know that but that doesn’t give her a right to be so overbearing. Tell her that you are good at what you do and that you don’t need her meddling.”

“She’s so in your face, very intimidating…kind of like you honey…and I don’t want to push the wrong button and lose my job.”

“Geez’, they can’t fire you for doing your job and saying how you feel. Don’t let her push you around.”

“I’ll take care of it.” (I have no idea how but I don’t want to talk about this anymore. Now I feel incompetent here too!)

“Good, if you don’t let it fester you can have it taken care of tomorrow and never deal with it again.”

“That’s easy to say, you are the supervisor at your office. I’m just a peon.”

“I respect people who speak their mind as long as they are respectful.”

“She doesn’t respect anyone but herself. She is not you.”

“I know. I just hate to see you pushed around.”

“I can handle myself.” (No I can’t. Why do I say things like that?)

“OK honey. Keep me posted.” (I’m not going to make her feel bad by continuing this.)

Nobody understand

Turn the page and you’ll have the answers and solutions for this messed up life we walk through every single day.

Solutions for Contempt and Hostility

Hostility is attacking someone with the intent to do verbal harm.

Some people simply fly off the handle and criticize people. As we talked about earlier, that has to be stopped. Others will complain about behaviors that their partners do. That isn’t so bad in the long run though it isn’t exactly a recipe for happiness. What is among the worst offending sins that is detrimental to the soul is communication with the intent to harm whether in public or private.

Stop it.

Even if someone is calling you a piece of garbage, YOU do not do the same. Often people with the intent to harm will be hostile and appear insane. You remain calm.

I have a rule. If the person is attacking me. I sit or calmly stand and listen to the words, the intention, the purpose.

I do everything in my power to not break that rule. I fail a lot less than I did when I was 20.

I recognize the person has no ability to self regulate and I can simply say, “I gotta tell you I really respect the way you protect your employee, your friends, your family. (If this is true.)

It will do you no good to behave as if you need to be committed to the mental hospital. So practice, finding one truth, one shred of good in the tongue lashing, because these things happen to everyone and share it with the person.

The alternative is to simply say they are a bigger jerk or a worse parent or a worse boss. Do that and you rapidly find your life is devolving and you become worthless to the world.

Always assume your conversations are being recorded then take the highest road you can. It’s not easy, but think that in the moment. “I’m being recorded.”

If you or your partner are intentionally communicating with the intent to harm you must stop immediately. Hostility is something that no one should be involved in. There is no benefit to hostility for anyone. The desire to harm others through communication is a sign of serious emotional problem that need to be corrected as soon as possible.

Fix harmful communicationIf your partner is intentionally communicating with you in a hostile manner you need to gently share this information with him at the first reasonable moment. The partner should be allowed to communicate his feelings about the reason for his hostility and then move to a solution. Remember it is also possible to feel hostility from another when to an objective observer there is no hostility. This scenario is common, so do not try to make the other person wrong. Why? Because just because you feel attacked doesn’t mean you are being attacked.

Sometimes perception is right and sometimes it’s wrong. You have every right to ask, “Are you attacking me?” Then “What caused you to talk with me like this?” Don’t ask “why?” That will turn into a mess.

The solution when you have both calmed down, is not the silent treatment but increased communication.

However, as you deal with the specific issue of hostility do not bring up all the relationship problems of the past. This only gives cause to do the exact opposite of your desired outcome.

Instead propose an idea.

Propose it.

Get agreement if appropriate and

…start communicating with the intention to make each other feel good about each other. The techniques on the coming pages will help you rebuild a relationship that was on treacherous ground.

Change hostile behavior

Re-Creating Connection and Caring in Relationships

Will the relationship end or will connection be re-created? If it’s time to start over do so now. The following plan for re-creating your relationship will be of great help. Here’s how:

Design a completely safe environment in which you and the other person may communicate.

If you have been hurting your partner, change your behavior. Changing your emotions will happen later, but change your behavior now! Your partner was hit as a child. If you tend to blow up at your loved one, stop now. They were yelled at as a child. If you get up and leave when you are angry, stop it now. They were abandoned as a child and you’re acting just like the parent.

Think carefully about these examples before moving on to number two. Create an atmosphere where it is safe to talk and communicate. Promise each other that this is a time to listen and not judge, evaluate or point fingers. Create an atmosphere where you can experience communication that connects.

Describe three things that you can implement in your relationship (or business situation) today to create a safe environment for yourself and your partner to communicate in.

Stop attacking partnerStop all criticism immediately!

There is no such thing as constructive criticism to the parts of the unconscious mind that are attempting to finish their childhood!

Make Space and Time for Acceptance

Acceptance sessions occur when you and your partner sit down and talk just as if you had been hit by a car in an accident. You want to find out if the other person is all right and see what you can do for them. You need to tell your partner that you want him to acknowledge what you are about to tell him without rebuttal or explanation on his part. No defensiveness is necessary. You are simply telling him that you are wounded and that it hurts. You will not blame him. You will use statements like, “I feel…” and “I hurt…” He should say, “I understand,” and “What else do you want to tell me?” “Go on.” “OK.” Those four statements and questions are the pattern or sum of what the non-injured partner will say.

It is vitally important to never attack your partner during these “acceptance” sessions. Keep it open and connecting and then your relationship moves forward!

Perform random acts of kindness for your loved one.

How to improve relationBring a card or gift home after work. A small and inexpensive gift shows your thoughtfulness and can do wonders for your relationship in a big way. Notice the key word is “random”. It means unpredictable. Be unpredictable with your times of giving.

Do something that you normally don’t do around the house. If you never do the dishes, do them one night. If you never cut the lawn, cut it. The unexpected can be very pleasant and very appreciated.

Return to a dating ritual you liked.

Was there something special you did while you were dating? Do it now.

Express your feelings for your partner with physical and verbal affirmations of love, often.

Discover their needs and wants while sharing yours.

For you to have a wonderful relationship discover what your partner currently loves about your relationship. Then ask your partner what he thinks could improve your relationship. Ask your partner the questions below, in the Successful Relationship Elicitation exercise. (Don’t do this all in one sitting!)

This exercise will help you discover what is important to your partner and will help you transform your relationship.

Successful Relationship Elicitation

Overcome hard times with my partnerThe following questions are to be used as discovery tools for you and your partner to learn more about each other and deepen your bond. Use these questions as tools to gently start to help you and your partner “peel each other’s onions.” The first questions will help you and your partner build resources for which you can refer to in tough times. Later questions help discover weaknesses and areas that can use change or improvement. Spend about 20 minutes for each partner with these questions, over several days.


    • What is the best thing about our relationship?
    • What is the next best thing about our relationship?
    • What else?
    • What do you believe you should learn about me to improve our relationship?
    • What do you think I should learn about you to improve our relationship?
    • What are two things I do that annoy you?
    • What are two things you do, that you think annoy me?
    • How happy are you with our sex life?
    • What can I do to make our sex life more intoxicating?
    • What would you be willing to do to make our sex life more intoxicating?
    • When we argue from now on, should we agree to kiss and make up before the argument gets out of hand?
    • What will our “cue” be for this to happen?
    • What do you do around the house that you think I don’t appreciate?
    • What do you do at work that you think I don’t appreciate?
    • What do I do that you probably don’t appreciate as much as you could?
    • What do you want to know about my past that I haven’t told you?
    • What do you want me to know about your past that you haven’t told me?
    • When should I be jealous?
    • When do you think you should be jealous?
    • How can we go from having a good relationship to having a fantastic relationship?

All of these questions allow you to discover more about our partner in a couple of hours than we may have discovered in years. Questions are an under-used element of communication in our culture. Beginning to ask gentle questions will put you on the track to improving communication and thereby improving your relationship no matter how good or bad it already is.

Learning what is important to your partner and being certain your partner understands what you need and want makes having a good relationship much easier. You take the guess work out of knowing what helps the other person feel more at ease with you.



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