When You Feel Like You Just Don't Like People

Some statements I've heard from people who are quite lonely and socially isolated are:

Sometimes when a person says they 'don't like people' it's just their semi-facetious way of stating, "I'm not super social by nature. I don't need a ton of friends. I'm selective about who I hang around. My personality-type, values, and interests are on the uncommon side, and I've come to realize most people don't have a lot to offer me." That's fine. Not everybody is has to be ultra-mainstream and love everyone.

At other times the 'I just don't like people' statement is made in a much more wounded, hostile manner. That's the use of it what I want to talk about. Below are my thoughts on this not uncommon sentiment. As you can probably guess I don't think this issue is a one-sided matter of 'People actually do suck' or, "You're just discouraged and angry. It's all in your head." When someone comes to feel this way there's often a lot going on.

Thinking you don't like people may be a totally reasonable conclusion based on your life so far

In my observations people who think like this often haven't had the best interactions with others up until that point in their lives. They're lonely and socially inexperienced. They don't look at other people and think 'rewarding relationships'. Such a thing may have never have happened for them.

When they try to make friends they may get ignored or shut down. They may have been misunderstood and picked on by their classmates all through school. People may routinely overlook or subtly disrespect them. They may have unsympathetic, rejecting family members ("Why do you hide in your room all weekend? You should join a sports team like your brother"). At the present their only social interactions may be with their annoying co-workers, and their prickly, nitpicking boss. When that's all someone's known, where they haven't seen much of the good side of others, it's hardly surprising that they'd come to the conclusion that people suck.

It's easier to form a negative opinion of people when you're at a distance and view them in the abstract

If someone spends a lot of time alone, and their only social interactions are fleeting and superficial, a lot of the information they're receiving about other people is more general and abstract. They're not getting those firsthand experiences, like a fun night out with friends, that viscerally reinforce how great and funny and generous others can be. Instead they're reading articles about the latest bar-lowering hit reality TV show. They're hearing news about how everyone elected another corrupt windbag politician, or how a majority of the public supports a bigoted law, or how a bunch of far-off countries are mired in horrible atrocities. They're going on their favorite website and seeing how dumb the commenters have become lately. When you look at people from that detached viewpoint it's not so difficult to be down on your fellow man.

Saying you don't like people can be an attempt to make yourself feel better about your social situation

Not the deepest, most unintuitive insight here. I think most people who say they hate everyone are lonely and do want friends and meaningful relationships. They may be discouraged, or conflicted, or gun shy and wary about the whole idea, but they still want closer connections deep down. However, maybe a minority really do have no use for other people, and if they want to do their own thing and not worry about socializing, that's their decision to make.

A lot of people may be isolated and feeling hopeless about their chances of creating a successful social life for themselves. Saying you don't actually like people can take some of that pain away. You're telling yourself you don't care about what you think you can't have, or you're devaluing something you want so the lack of it doesn't bother you as much.

If you manage to have more fulfilling interactions with people the feelings will likely go away

You knew this point was coming. If you're really in the depths of social isolation, and you have some social skills gaps, anxiety issues, or emotional baggage that's getting in the way, then it can be hard to imagine you may one day have a life where you have a solid group of friends and you generally appreciate people's company. Like the intro was saying, it may never be your style to be a bubbly person with a million casual acquaintances, but that bitterness towards humanity will be dulled. If you do start addressing your problems you'll likely find your opinion of people will begin to turn around, as you start to have more intrinsically rewarding interactions.

Related articles

These articles talk about some closely related points. First, disliking people may go hand-in-hand with an attitude that you're better than others. The two aren't always connected though:

Is Falsely Believing You're Better Than People Holding You Back Socially?

This one may help diffuse a general sentiment that other people are shallow and vacuous on the whole:

Other People Often Aren't As Shallow As They Seem

Finally, feeling really down on other people may be a symptom of depression, which can make your thoughts become really negative and sabotaging:

When Depression Is A Factor In Your Loneliness And Social Problems