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Dealing with condescension

Updated on September 13, 2014

Being condescending is an unintelligent way to make yourself feel superior -Timothy Correa

Filmmaker Timothy Correa described the airy nature of condescension to a T. Those who resort to belittling others use a rather vacuous way of making themselves feel above them.

We all know the friend who makes suggestions to boost your income and the one who says "I do not want to make you feel bad, but..." The subtle put downs are all too familiar.

We will meet with friends or family who blow a little air, albeit in less pronounced ways. Without realizing it, we even do so ourselves. How they do so is grates on the nerves, yet strangely, captures interest.

Avoiding becoming windblown takes effort, yet oddly rewarding when we deflect the gust of air. Not creating gusty, condescending air is even better.


People are condescending because of...

1. Ingrained attitudes

2. Lack of self-esteem

3. Tactlessness

4. Ignorance

5. Defensiveness

A. The nature of condescension: Having airs

The subtle, yet upsetting breezes spring from too-deeply entrenched attitudes towards standard norms in society. We have airs when we have a job that society perceives as better than others or brings in more money. We do not want to eat in places that are not trendy enough.

These airs also stem from a lack of self-esteem. They serve as a security blanket when people do not feel adequate. The one way to protect ourselves is to appear that we know more than others or are more successful. Condescension becomes a needed self-defense mechanism.

Ignorance also generates blustering, condescending air. Our tactless actions and speech come across as put downs, for we do not realize that they affect the self-confidence in the worst way.


How would you deal with a condescending person?

See results

How do people condescend to us?

1. They come across as know-it-alls.

2. They try to cushion their judgement.

3. They use someone else as a shield.

4. They question your ability.

5. They give false consolation.

6. They question your choices.

7. They hint that someone else is better

at what you do.

8. They couch their condescension in

love and well-intentioned advice.

B. How people condescend to us: Blowing unhealthy air

To avoid appearing confrontational or rude, people often disguise, or try to disguise, put downs. They blow condescending airs in remarkably different ways.

They may come across as know-it-alls who deliberately correct you when you make any sort of error. People may whisper chilling breezes subtly, couching them in well-intentioned advice. After doing so, they react with a smug “I told you so” or “What did I tell you?” if they are right.

Sometimes, people seem airy when they try to cushion or justify their judgment of you. The classic “I don’t mean to judge, but….” is probably condescension in its highest form. They may question your choices and give false consolation, saying“ There will be a next time,” if your choice is the wrong one.

And then, they may use someone as a shield. Those who say “I’m only saying that Alice feels that you look fat.” are cleverly expressing their own opinions. They play the devil’s advocate to deflect any responsibility for their own put downs.

Others may question your ability. They may hint that someone else can do something better than you do or ask, “How confident are you in….” Depending on the context, these questions may come across as chilling, put-down breezes. They must come from a trusted relative or friend, or out of concern, if they are genuine attempts to help a situation. Otherwise, the only person who can ask these questions without appearing to belittle another is a job interviewer.

How to deal with condescending people

When dealing with put downs, we should..

1. Pause and think about why the person is making the remark.

2. Pick your battles wisely.

3. Do not let the person condescend to you indefinitely.

C. Dealing with condescension: The lull

Lulling condescending, put down breezes takes a little thought. We have to stop for a moment and think about why a person is making certain remarks. Depending on how well we understand the person, decide if it is concern or condescension.

Prepare a few responses. Say, "Thanks, I will consider if it woris for me," tells a person that you know your own circumstances best. Pick battles, because some are simply not worth fighting. We know our own worth.

We do not have to let another person blow chilling breezes our way indefinitely either. It is our right to set boundaries and distance ourselves from those with the bad “put down” habit, if necessary.

Practicing double standards definitely does not give us the right to say that another person is condescending. We can avoid blowing these subtle breezes ourselves by simply being mindful of the words we say.


How to avoid being condescending

1. Do not take credit for yourself

2. Do not attempt to do another person's job

3. When we advise people who may already

know how to live their lives

D. Poem: Wind Blown




So subtly

Cold Breeze

Gently Chills

Gusts Blow

From thoughts


In cold ice





E. Conclusion

We can stop subtle, condescending breezes from blowing, or avoid blowing them ourselves.


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    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Tolerance is not always something that everyone practices….

    • timorous profile image

      Tim Nichol 

      6 years ago from Me to You

      Exactly. If they can't get a reaction from you, frustration sets in. If you persist in ignoring their badgering, they will eventually give up. Just give them the 'Mona Lisa smile'... LOL.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      I think the worst thing you can do where they are concerned is let them see you get angry. They win that way, Timorous!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Barbara!

    • timorous profile image

      Tim Nichol 

      6 years ago from Me to You

      Besides hiding behind a lack of self-esteem, these types of people know how to get under your skin, if you let them. However, if you remain present and stop listening to your ego and its conditioned reaction, you can remain neutral, or even laugh at their pointless tirade.

      I've been studying and practicing mind awareness for some time now, and I find it quite easy to not let what others think of me affect me at all.'s none of my business what they think of what I do or say. I just become transparent, not comment, and move on. You know...sticks and stones may break my bones...

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Audrey!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Chitrangada!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Rebecca!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Indeed, jmsp206!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Rasma!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, John. Yes, it's no point battling it out with those who simply cannot empathise. Thanks for the share!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Paula!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Manatita!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Giving them the good old challenge is best, blue heron!!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Bill. That's right. We deserve it, each of us and if we don't get it, it's time to go elsewhere.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      6 years ago from New Delhi, India

      We regularly come across such people in our lives. Sometimes it is very annoying, but they won't change. Better to change our path.

      Interesting topic and some valid points. Thanks for sharing!

    • Barbara Kay profile image

      Barbara Badder 

      6 years ago from USA

      Thanks for your suggestions. We all have some of these people in our lives, but it is sad so many lack self confidence.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      6 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      I look for the nearest exit. I know it may sound like I'm running away, but with some people it's just easier. Thanks Michelle.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      6 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      You did a great job describing those subtle put-downs. I hate those sort of put-downs. Thanks for great suggestions to deal with them!

    • jmsp206 profile image

      Julia M S Pearce 

      6 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      Very hard and promotes so much negativity.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 

      6 years ago from Daytona Beach, Florida

      Great hub. I have always found it a waste of my time dealing with people like this and luckily have no one like that in my life right now. Passing this on.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      6 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Very wise advice here Michelle. There are a lot of people out there who can't help but be condescending. I'm sure they don't even realise that they are doing it. The best you can do is consider if they have a point, but if it is purely meant as a put down..ignore them and walk away. arguing rarely helps. Voted up.

    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 

      6 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      I have run into people like this throughout my career. Well written.

    • manatita44 profile image


      6 years ago from london

      Thanks Michelle,

      This one comes my way quite frequently. So far I have done nothing. But it can be very annoying and degrading to say the least. Very nice Hub. You choose the ones that seem to occur regularly in daily life. You're a philosopher or something? have you read Jung? Sundays peace to you.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Yes, it depends on how well you know that friend or relative, DashingScorpio. If you know her to be well meaning with her advice, then it's probably not condescension.

    • blueheron profile image

      Sharon Vile 

      6 years ago from Odessa, MO

      Once in awhile, you will encounter people who--at least as best you can tell from short acquaintance--are manipulative and vitriolic. Normally that have memorized many conversational gambits that they feel serve their ends (whatever those are), perhaps because they have worked in the past. Normally these gambits are transparent lies, are irrational, or are idiotic nonsense. You should engage such people only if trapped (which can happen). Trying to steer the conversation towards something more along rational lines will not work, but is good if you feel you have to say something: "Perhaps you could present some factual basis for what you are saying? What makes you believe this is actually true? Maybe you could say that the opposite is equally true?"

      If you are not trapped in this person's company, run like hell and never look back!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It will only happen once to me, and then that person is gone from my life. I believe we all deserve respect, Michelle, and if it isn't given, we need to move on.

    • dashingscorpio profile image


      6 years ago from Chicago

      I believe it's important to know someone well enough to determine if they are genuinely offering you constructive criticism or if they're simply trying to put you down. Sometimes how we see ourselves is not how others perceive us to be. Within my circle I prefer honesty over a bunch of "yes" men/women.

      Having said that if an individual seems to only have condescending remarks then it is up to me to discontinue being around them.

      Each of us gets to (choose) our own friends, lovers, and spouse.

      I'd cut myself off from family members if it improved my well being. Life is too short to be investing time and emotion on toxic people and relationships.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Pawpawwrites.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Devika.

    • Pawpawwrites profile image


      6 years ago from Kansas

      Overt condescension, will get me fired up quicker than just about anything else.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      6 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      I try not to be close to anyone with chip on their shoulders.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      How do we deal with those annoying put downs?


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