How to Deal With Contempt

Practice forgiveness to overcome your contempt.
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If you feel contempt for a person you were once close with, you may wonder how your relationship transformed so dramatically. You might wonder if your bond is worth fixing or if the two of you have too many issues to overcome. Feeling hostile towards someone is not pleasant, especially if the two of you must spend time together often. There are many effective ways to deal with contempt that will allow you to enjoy a close relationship with a person once again.

1 Examine Your Thoughts

The root of your contempt for a person is most likely found in the thoughts running through your mind. Thoughts of a person's incompetence or disgust fuel contempt and hostility, according to Kevin Hogan, author of "The Psychology of Persuasion: How to Persuade Others to Your Way of Thinking." Every time a contemptuous thought comes into your head, redirect your focus to something positive about the person. For example, if you cannot stop focusing on your friend's terrible social skills, pay attention to that same friend's good heart and pure intentions.

2 Practice Empathy

Go out of your way to do kind things for the person you feel contempt for. Empathy and contempt are exact opposites, according to Susan Heitler, Ph.D., in the "Psychology Today" article "How Contempt Destroys Relationships." You will not have room to feel hostile towards a person for whom you are performing acts of kindness. The next time this individual does something that annoys you, make an effort to say something nice or issue a compliment. By training yourself to practice empathy instead of contempt, you will crowd out your negative thoughts with positive ones.

3 Change Your Actions

Your actions may either fuel the contempt you feel in your heart or dissolve it. If you consistently practice name-calling, eye-rolling, mockery or hostile humor, you are conveying disgust and severely damaging your relationship, according to Tom Moon, a marriage and family therapist. Instead of doing little things that show contempt, try doing things that show kindness and thoughtfulness. Open the door for the person for whom you feel contempt, or offer to help carry up groceries.

4 Practice Forgiveness

Perhaps the most important way you can deal with contempt in a relationship is to practice the simple act of forgiveness. While you may feel that the person you have contempt for does not deserve a second (or third) chance, you will free yourself of your negative thoughts if you do not hold a grudge. Instead, redirect your focus to forgiveness and moving forward. This will allow you to enjoy other aspects of your life and stop thinking about the wrong that was done to you or the qualities that annoy you.

Kristen Moutria has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Evangel University. She is currently pursuing her Master of Arts in education from the University of Nebraska.