16 “nice” things people say that are actually condescending

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We’ve all met nice people who are extremely annoying:

Sometimes it’s hard to figure out exactly why. After all, they’re nice and they smile a lot and say all the right things. 

That’s where the problem lies:

Overly nice people often have a large stock of phrases they use that seem pleasant on the surface but are actually very condescending. 

Let’s take a look.

1) “Everything happens when it’s supposed to”

This may or may not be true. 

But rather than being reassuring, it often comes across as condescending

When a nice person tells you this, you may find that you feel a little annoyed or miffed. 

After all, who are they to say?

Even if it’s their religious or spiritual beliefs, it can come across as just one of those things that’s said and doesn’t really mean much. 

2) “You’ll meet somebody when the time is right”

This is in a similar vein to the previous phrase. 

You’re being told when you’ll meet somebody:

Is this person psychic or something? 

It’s not only presumptuous, it’s inherently kind of condescending. 

Just as I don’t have the right to tell somebody what will or won’t happen in their life or when it will be “right” or not, they don’t have the right to do so for me. 

3) “Don’t worry, God (the Universe, life) will fix everything”

This is another of those very nice and frankly condescending things that people say. 

It may be meant in a very well-intentioned way. 

But it can’t help but come across as patronizing in most contexts because it’s so vague and starry-eyed.

It may be meant as a benediction:

But it still comes across as unrealistic idealism or waving your problem away. 

4) “You’re so lucky and blessed”

When you’re told how lucky and blessed you are by somebody, it can be slightly off-putting. 

First of all, jealous people have been known to say things like this as a low-key way of signaling that they want what you have. 

Secondly, it feels like somebody’s decided what your life is and you have to agree. 

You’re essentially being told that you need to be grateful for what you have and that you’ve “won” at the game of life. 

5) “You certainly have a unique way of looking at it”

You may be very unique or you might not be. 

But when you’re praised for your “unique” way of viewing something, it can’t help but come across as a bit condescending. 

This is often also used as a way to end a conversation or move on to a new topic. 

You’re told how “unique” you are and then interrupted or ignored. 

How can you not take that the wrong way? 

6) “Very interesting ideas. Remind me what’s your religion?”

This is another riff on the previous phrase. 

You’re told about how your ideas are interesting but you’re asked what your religion is as well. 

This comes across as if what you say is trying to be matched up with your religion or changed by it. 

“You believe that? But your religion is X!”

Or;

“Your religion is what? I can see how you’d start believing some…unusual things…” 

Are two possible follow-ups. 

It’s like your religion will be used to restrict what you can say or to label you as weird, both of which are very patronizing behaviors. 

7) “You shouldn’t focus so much on money”

Money doesn’t buy happiness, that’s certainly true. 

But being told you shouldn’t focus so much on money is only something that should be said to you by somebody who’s giving you money. 

If they’re not giving you money then they should reserve their opinion on what you should be doing about money. 

Money matters. It won’t satisfy you, true. But there’s a lot you can do with it, including helping other people. 

Nobody has the right to tell you that money doesn’t matter unless they’re making that a reality in your life. 

8) “You’re beautiful, no matter what anybody tells you”

If a nice person says this, they’re not very nice. 

Why would they be mentioning “no matter what anybody tells you?”

Whoever you are, if you get a compliment for being good looking it deserves to stand on its own merits. 

Adding that other people probably don’t find you attractive is totally unnecessary and is a barbed comment of the worst kind. 

9) “Your outfit is extremely uh…different! Wow! Eye-catching!”

This is a backhanded way of telling somebody they look odd or weird. 

It sounds kind of like genuine surprise on the surface, and maybe it is. 

But underneath that comment is a lot of judgment and acerbic criticism. 

If they want to say you look odd or should wear something else, just say it. 

Why comment in such a way pretending that your outfit is “eye-catching” or brilliant in some way as a mask for simply saying they don’t like it?

This is yet another example of how overly nice people sometimes use very indirect and fuzzy statements to veil criticism.

10) “Don’t feel bad, you really are a good person” 

Being told that you’re a good person isn’t much remedy when life doesn’t go your way. 

You may or may not be what would be known as a “good” person. 

But either way, you don’t need to be told you’re a good person or not. 

It doesn’t help, and even if you are, feeling like you’ve been shortchanged by life 

11) “Sure, sweetheart, don’t let me bother you”

Terms like “sweetheart” and “darling” are often used in a condescending way. 

They may be delivered in a sarcastic way or as a way to bypass you and ignore what you’re doing. 

As Finn Robinson writes:

“In order to undermine another person or try to make them feel small, someone might call them a pet name such as “sweetheart,” “sugar,” “darling,” “cupcake,” “sweetie,” and so on.”

12) “Just breathe and calm down”

This is often meant in a nice way. But it’s quite condescending. 

When you’re ordered to calm down, the thing you’re worried or anxious about is being inherently put on the backburner.

Even asking if you can “try” to calm down would be nicer…

But saying this more as a command or set of instructions can come off quite condescending

You’re being told what to do and being labeled as the out-of-control anxious person who doesn’t know how to breathe. 

13) “That’s actually not a bad idea”

Saying that something you suggest is “actually” a good idea is pretty condescending. 

It may not be meant that way, but it comes off that way. 

If somebody expresses surprise that you have a good idea, they either don’t have a very high opinion of you or have an exceedingly high opinion of themselves. 

Either way, it’s not a great interaction, and you can’t be blamed for being a little put off to be talked to in such a way. 

14) “It’s hard to explain to somebody who hasn’t…” 

When somebody drops this whole type of phrase they are telling you that your life experience has left you lots of blind spots. 

That may be true. It could be true for them, too. 

But whether it’s true or not, it’s a very condescending thing to say

For example, say a person is telling you about their parents divorce and your parents are still together.

“It’s hard to explain to somebody who hasn’t been through a divorce, I dunno…”

You just got told off because your parents aren’t divorced? That’s pretty patronizing if you ask me. They could at least try to explain the experience. 

15) “I suppose your expertise is more in…” 

This is a sly way of letting you know that you won’t be smart enough to understand something. 

By referring to your supposed expertise in another area, the nice person indicates that you’re smart while also making it clear you’re not smart in whatever’s being talked about. 

You’ve just been ruled out and disqualified, according to them. 

16) “Well, let’s not get into all that drama, right?”

If a serious subject comes up, a phrase like this can be used as a form of fake compassion:

The whole idea of not wading into something serious can just be a way to actually say they don’t want to discuss something serious or hear your real experiences. 

The nice person may find a certain subject to be unnecessary “drama,” while to you that subject is a key part of your life experiences. 

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