Here’s What Happens When You Ask People to Say Something Nice About Someone They Hate

Frenemies, annoying coworkers, family members who make everyone else's business their own, evil exes... we've all got people we don't particularly like in our lives. But even when we don't like someone, what happens when we try to look at them in a positive light anyway? That's exactly what online magazine The Page Girls explores in their latest issue: The theme of "Love/Hate," or as they put it, "how thin is the line between passion and fury?" In their foreward to the issue, they write, “It’s a favorite theme in the world of romantic comedy. Two people start out hating each other, only to fall for each other at the end. Or they outwardly hate each other and struggle with confusing inner feelings of love and lust. In reality, how often does this kind of thing actually happen?” The magazine both investigates the trope and subverts it — and what better way to do so than by asking a bunch of people (over a few drinks, of course) to say something nice about someone they hate?

The Page Girls caught the results on camera, and those results are fascinating. Some of them really tried to put a positive spin on it, like the woman who said, “It’s really great that he believes in himself so much”; others clearly struggled, like the guy who said, “…She’s got a nose!” Speaking of noses, when they had trouble saying something about their nemesis’ actual personality and behavior, they tended to remark on their appearance: “He does have clear skin,” “He’s got a normal looking body… there’s nothing real weird about it,” and so on. The gal at the 29-second mark seemed to follow the Alice Roosevelt Longworth school of thought — "If you haven't got anything good to say about anybody, come sit next to me" — flat out refusing and shaking her head with a disgusted look on her face. Here, take a watch:

The Page Girls on YouTube

The thing that struck me the most was how torn most people seemed to be — and how that, in turn, revealed how they really felt about the person. Take, for example, the previous statement, “It’s really great that he believes in himself so much”: The phrasing suggests both that he’s confident, but also that it comes across as arrogance to the person speaking about him. Other similar responses from other people included, “Keeps you guessing. That’s fun,” and “She’s everything you don’t want in a person, but she’s still so nice!”

Something I’d be curious to find with regards to the experiment is whether any of the people interviewed are, say, friends with their nemeses’ on Facebook. A recent study (and yes, this one was reported by the Daily Mail, so take it with a grain of salt) found that two-thirds of Americans friend people they don’t actually like on the social networking site just so they snoop on their lives. I guess in some respect, we’re all that nosy neighbor sticking our heads up over the side of the fence to see what’s going on the yard next door — even when we really, really don’t like our neighbors.

Check out the entire issue over at The Page Girls’ website.

Image: Kate Tomlinson/Flickr