Why Do We Put People Down, and What Can You Do About It?

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Rankism, or: why do we put people down?

Rankism, or: why do we put people down?

I was reading something about a person whose teachings I really enjoy. I don't agree with everything he says, but the foundation of what he teaches comes across as really sound.

As I punched his name into Google to do some more research, immediately results showed up with "dr.. [X]… scam”, and dr. [X]… cult". Purely out of curiosity I opened a couple of these links, and was astounded what vitriol and rude comments were made about him and what he teaches.

I've seen this kind of criticism happen often (even with my own materials, would you believe it!), and it's always baffled me. WHY in heaven's name would you want to do this to someone? What is the reason that people put other people down with such a vengeance? Why would you want to drag someone through the mud and criticise him/her, if what s/he teaches is not even affecting you, or, on the contrary, is affecting many other people positively? I am part of a network marketing organisation, and boy, are there detractors out there bagging it left, right and centre. And yet, the only thing this business does is giving you an opportunity to make additional income. Nothing wrong with that, I’d say.

 I find it amazing that there are so many "sceptics" who find it necessary to make it their lives' purpose to uncover other people's beliefs and values, when the sceptics themselves are not even helped, healed, harmed or hurt by any of the other people's beliefs or actions. I am not a religious guy, but look at Jesus. He was a prime example of someone with strong beliefs and a strong message, and… well, we know what happened to HIM. Granted, the Romans DID feel threatened by Jesus, but that is beside the point today. Often, there seems to be no other reason for putting people down that to just put people down…. Or ARE there more, deeper, underlying reasons?

This type of behaviour is called "rankism" and you know what? We all do it some times: ranking ourselves above someone else (race, religion, creed, colour, demographic, intellect, strength, you mention it). Generally, there is no mal-intent when practicing rankism, so why does it happen in the first place?

What are reasons for rankism?

The short version of a long story is: it seems to be associated with our predatory past. In the old days we would hunt and fight to maintain our rank. Nowadays, fighting is not considered the most effective option anymore -you can actually get killed- so what we've done is "institutionalise" our predation. We "do" rankism in order to prey on the weaker species, without running a risk of actually being attacked physically, and having to fight for our survival, AND our place in the hierarchy. This way, we can feel superior and will -perhaps- avoid competition.

Again, long story attached to it, but the main reason to practice rankism is FEAR.

In my example's case: the 3 main reasons why people find it necessary to "bag" or put down someone else, or someone else's opinion, are:

1.            We all want to feel successful and worthy; one -twisted- way of making ourselves feel successful and worthy is by claiming other people are NOT successful, and are unworthy. That way, you LIFT your own feeling of success and self-worth. You ARE somebody!

2.            We feel jealous and inferior ourselves. This is the reverse situation from 1. In this case, you are already aware of your own negative feelings, and what better way to lift your spirits than to criticise and bag someone else. At least you will not feel THAT bad for a bit of time, as you will probably find some supporters for your opinion.

3.            There is what they call "cognitive dissonance" between what the criticiser believes to be true, and what the criticised claims to be true. This leads to an interesting neurological phenomenon, as they brain does not like dissonance between itself and its environment. Without perhaps even being deliberate about it, you will try to equalise the tension, and poo-pooing someone’s opinion is a great way of doing so. The dissonance disappears for a while.

What can we do about rankism?

What can you do when being criticised or bagged for what you believe to be true, or for what you teach and stand for? Here are 4 powerful tips:

1.            Do NOT react. This only reinforces the criticiser's belief s/he is right, and you're wrong (and s/he will therefore feel even better and outrank you); it will fuel the fire. Listen, seethe on the inside if you must, and let it just sit there. There are plenty of ways to deal with your own emotions; expressing them to the criticiser will not be effective.

2.            As good as you can, listen for the positives in what is being said. Perhaps the criticiser has a point, and you might be able to take in on board later. Listen intently, and look for the gems in the rubble.

3.            Diffuse the situation by saying something like "I heard you. I will think about what you said, and perhaps get back to you about it. For now, I think I know enough to make up my mind. Thanks for your opinion".

With the emergence of the internet it has become SO easy to criticise without actually looking someone in the face, that is has become more popular. The same tips apply to internet criticism as to face to face. Don't react immediately. If you do, you're actually practicing rankism as well!

If you are totally convinced of your point of view, and even after re-assessing the facts you think you are right, practice the "Law of Lesser Pissers", which I learned from Dr. John Demartini years ago. He himself has been criticised more than once, by the way, but I think his teachings are absolutely awesome.

The Law of Lesser Pissers states that the more people you speak to, the more followers and detractors you will get. So, if you have 1 person agreeing with you, there will most likely be 1 person disagreeing with (or: pissing on) you. If you spread your message far and wide, you may have 10,000 people agreeing with you, and 10,000 people disagreeing with/pissing on you. If there are 1,000,000 agreeing with you, there will probably be 1,000,000 disagreeing with you.

You pick! If you think that your message is worth spreading and being heard about, you'll just have to take into your stride the fact that there will be as many friends as there are foes. It just goes with the territory.

There are many more ways to deal effectively with criticism. There are not too many ways to make up for lost purpose. If you have something to say, please say it. It would be shame to go unheard!