The Taxonomy of Hate – Cold Hate

This week we continue our discussion on dealing with the hard cases utilizing Sternberg’s taxonomy of hate.  The third entry in Sternberg’s taxonomy is Cold Hate.  This is the cognitive form of hate.  “Cognitive” refers to ways in which we have learned to process, retain and evaluate information we receive.  Cold Hate shapes an individual’s view of right and wrong, and how the world around them ‘should’ work.  Racism, sexism and other “isms” are forms of Cold Hate.

When viewed through the lens of Cold Hate, the world is divided into “Us” and “Them”, and “They” are definitely inferior, even threatening, to “Us” and “our” way of life.  Narratives that reinforce this form of hate within a group often portray the targeted group as evil or fundamentally lacking in some critical respect.  In these narratives, “evidence” of threats and wrongdoing is presented in exaggerated and dramatic terms.  Information that would challenge the assumptions underlying this form of hate is often simply dismissed as untrustworthy or false.  Those outside the belief system based on Cold Hate often puzzle over apparent errors of logic or fact embedded in these narratives.

Here are some examples of what Cold Hate sounds like:

“You say you’re supposed to be nice the the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians and the Methodists and this, that, and the other thing.  Nonsense, I don’t have to be nice to the spirit of the Antichrist.”  -Pat Robertson, The 700 Club, 10/27/97.

“I am sorry but after hearing they want to sing the ‘National Anthem’ in Spanish – enough is enough… I am not against immigration. – Just come through like everyone else… live by the rules AND LEARN THE LANGUAGE…  We speak ‘ENGLISH’, not Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, or any other language.  Therefore, if you wish to become part of our society, ‘LEARN THE LANGUAGE’.  If Stars and Stripes offend you, or you don’t like Uncle Sam, then you should move to another part of this planet… This is OUR COUNTRY, our land, and our lifestyle.”  (Chain e-mail forwarded by an employee in a company’s human resources department to friends)

“I don’t need to read the report to know I reject it —   [Name] is just a tool of [Group Name].  You’re a fool to believe otherwise.  You can’t trust them, you don’t know the history . . .”  (Community Member refusing to review and comment on a summary report from a dialogue process)

Because Cold Hate is  incorporated into an individual’s value system and identity, it is far harder to address than either Hot Hate or Cool Hate.  If you have this hard wired form of hate in your community, progress on many issues may be slow.  Decisions made or efforts undertaken without consensus may increase existing tensions and distrust.   Although dialogue and other engagement processes can help heal the divides caused by Cold Hate, a one time or one day event is unlikely to have much, if any,  impact.  To make a difference, you need to plan for different layers and phases of dialogue over a period of time.  You may consider holding separate informational dialogues and listening sessions with different groups before bringing opposed groups together.  Such sessions allow you to share information and invite input, to learn key assumptions and fears that lie behind each group’s thinking, and to build relationships that may be helpful in future sessions.  Review of an aggregated summary from these sessions, followed by small group discussions using a very structured, facilitated format like listening circles or study circles can be an effective way to begin discussion among different groups.

Facilitators in a dialogue where Cold Hate is present must be able to avoid either rejecting or empowering a participant whose contributions reflect Cold Hate, even though the facilitator can (and should) challenge expressions of Cold Hate.  Changing attitudes, values, and identities takes time and if the speaker’s identity is threatened by direct rejection or labeling that is perceived as derogatory, little progress will be made.  At the same time, targeted individuals in the group must feel that it is safe to remain and participate.  Facilitation techniques that help when Cold Hate is present are attentive listening to each speaker, restatements that name key emotions like fear and anger and key concerns while avoiding reuse of offensive and accusatory language (“you feel your future is threatened when . . . and jobs is a key concern for you”);  asking probing (although open-ended) questions, inviting responses to statements made, introducing new factual information, encouraging further reflection on identified questions or information between sessions,  focusing forward on ways to accomplish the objective the group has identified, and summarizing in ways that introduce new narratives – particularly one the Sternberg calls a “Story of Wisdom” which will be the subject of a future post.

Training and skill building programs can also plant seeds for change.  If you are interested in learning more about our training and skill building programs for community groups or staff related to these topics, please contact us at  In our next post we will summarize the different combinations of Cool, Hot, and Cold Hate that complete the Sternberg taxonomy.  After that we will discuss the “Story of Wisdom” narrative noted above.  We appreciate our many readers, and invite your comments.

6 responses to “The Taxonomy of Hate – Cold Hate

  1. Pingback: Responding to Hate – Stories of Wisdom | The Blog for Building Dialogue

  2. Pingback: Responding to Hate – Summary | The Blog for Building Dialogue

  3. Pingback: Cognitive Errors – Even More | The Blog for Building Dialogue

  4. Pingback: Justice, Peace, and Dialogue | The Blog for Building Dialogue

  5. Pingback: Weeding and Watching – Part 1 | The Blog for Building Dialogue

  6. Pingback: What Now? | The Blog for Building Dialogue

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