If you’ve ever watched a documentary on sharks then you’re familiar with the feeding frenzy. This is when a school of sharks start to feed on prey. It can be an attack on a single victim or a school of other fish, but once the feeding begins the energy multiplies over and over as the sharks feed. Soon the sharks are feeding in such a panic it’s as though they can’t stop themselves. Now I’m about to compare this activity to the way negative types make friends.
I hate to be so reductive, but at the same time I think people reduce themselves to be a part of a group. First and foremost we are social creatures. Secondly, we will preserve our current social standing at all costs. People only give lip service to guiding principles. Unfortunately, it’s relegated to “child-like” morals left to Disney and Pixar movies for children. By the time we become adults we’ve abandoned any basic concept of sharing and caring, unless it pertains directly to our social status. Then we will give all day.
When someone enters a group, like someone new at the office, social psychology dictates that the person will make friends using two methods: Acts of kindness and acts of aggression. Now the acts of kindness are obvious. You do something nice so people will like you. Then there are the acts of aggression. This is micro-aggression. Aka, bullying. The majority of it is passive aggressive bullying.
Here’s the simplified version of the social psychological (or if you like, social anthropological) way it plays out. “I just said something bad about her so that means I trust you enough to say bad things about her,” and “Now that we’ve shared this negative gossip we’re good friends.” Psychologically people develop a quicker sense of trust when they share a negative experience. Negative people are adept at using this dynamic to suck in “supposed friends.” Unfortunately, most people don’t study social psychology. So they aren’t aware they are being lulled into a friendship using this method.
It’s interesting to watch this play out in front of you. Like when someone is new at work, you can quickly get a sense of the type of person they are. How they tear people down in subtle ways. Some people are just toxic. Or if someone was on an extended leave and you notice how much better everyone is getting along. Then the person returns and all of a sudden someone’s taking an unexpected day off work. People quickly start talking negative to each other. One person in the group is being bullied. You can’t help but be shocked that people are so easy to manipulate. We like to think we’re intelligent beings who aren’t susceptible to an obvious manipulation. But that’s not the case. Like a fish caught on a fish hook, we’re dropped into the feeding frenzy.