18 signs of a condescending person (and how to deal with them)

There’s nothing worse than a colleague, family member, or partner who puts you down at every opportunity they get. Their attitude of superiority can make you feel miserable – but that’s where we come in. 

We’re going to help you understand why they behave this way, and what you can do to finally put an end to it. 

Let’s jump straight in:

Signs of condescending people to watch out for

Here are toxic behaviors and traits of patronizing people to help you recognize if someone you’re dealing with is condescending or not.

1) Thinking too highly of their intelligence level

These people think that they are the most amazing person ever and that you should listen to their ever-growing expertise.

They keep bragging about how smart and intelligent they are. They take every opportunity to let everyone in the room and the whole world know about this.

Since they act this way, they think too little of others.

According to Psych Central, they give that condescending smile to make someone feel lower than he is.

They even feel that nobody should ignore whatever it is that they do or say.

2) Assuming they know everything

There’s nothing wrong with sharing and being confident in what you know. But there’s a line between being arrogant and being modest.

Nobody likes a know-it-all person.

A condescending person tends to explain things, even simple things that most people already knew. Sometimes, they also tend to make unnecessary noise so they can cover up their ignorance.

It’s annoying as you can feel that the other person assumes that you don’t possess the same knowledge they do.

3) Giving unsolicited advice

They have a habit of giving their opinion on every single matter. They feel that nobody is more qualified than them to speak on any topic.

But the problem is, this person wants you to listen and accept it – even if you think their advice is nonsense and silly.

This is because these people believe that their opinion is something that the world cannot afford to miss.

Sometimes they even think they’re doing you a favor.

4) Putting a brave front

While he flaunts his superiority and acts arrogant most of the time, this person is filled with insecurities.

He conceals this by wearing a mask of fake self-confidence and smartness.

This person also shows off most of the time and thinks that he possesses a certain class. But the truth is, there isn’t.

This kind of behavior pushes people away.

5) Boasting about their achievements

They spend their time showcasing themselves, bragging about their talents, achievements, and everything that they have.

These people feel like they are better than you and everyone. They have this need to project the perceived greatness they thought they have.

Toxic and condescending people tend to be insecure – and they do this to bolster their image and show how much better they are.

It could be because this is their way to compensate for the shortcomings that they hope you’ll never know.

6) Belittling pet names like “sweetie” or “chief”

This person keeps using pet names to address you. For instance, “Dear, I’ll buy you a drink.”

Your first instinct would be like, “I think this person is a jerk.”

While some find it adorable if an old lady calls them “hun” – not everyone likes it too.

Using those overly familiar, chummy nicknames doesn’t make someone feel good. People even find them condescending as it comes out to be patronizing.

Even if it sounds sweet and delicious, or like something you might call your dog, avoid using pet names when addressing people.

Pet names aren’t essential as they make people feel inferior. It further brings about the problem of possession and the illusion of having an ulterior motive.

For instance, a boss who calls his subordinates “chief,” or “honey” as a way of rubbing elbows with them. When it comes to interacting with service people, some tend to call them “boss,” or “big guy.”

In a poll conducted by Men’s Health, 43 percent of respondents said that when someone calls him “boss,” he thinks that this person is a “condescending asshole.”

7) Putting you and others down

You will notice that this person tends to be critical towards you and others. You can never hear them say good things about people.

They speak poorly about others and even those who are not around you.

They are critical and dwell on the weaknesses and mistakes of others. But they can’t take it when people criticize them.

Belittling others is perhaps their way of boosting their self-esteem.

Watch out as there’s a possibility that this person is doing the same to you.

8) Making themselves the center of attention

When you’re talking, either this person would act so bored or change the topic.

Instead of understanding what you’re saying, they’ll refuse to listen.

Since you’re getting the attention that they think they could be on them, they turn the conversation back to themselves.

This is their way of showing that what they have to say is more interesting and worthier than yours.

They never let anyone speak as they feel that their voice is more important than you or anyone else.

9) Being right all the time

Even if they made a mistake or did something wrong, they won’t admit it.

They would push facts on your face, challenge you, or even blame other people. They feel that they’re right no matter what.

When someone in your life does not apologize and even insists that you’re wrong, then you’re dealing with a toxic person.

10) Saying “take it easy” or “lighten up”

You are entitled to your feelings and reactions.

Being told to “chill out,” “relax,” or “calm down,” suggests that your excitement or response to something isn’t valid.

When someone says these types of phrases to you, this person could be minimizing your feelings – or doesn’t give a damn at all.

It seems that this person isn’t honoring your feelings or doesn’t want to spend time understanding your thoughts.

Women tend to get this sort of response as men tend to perceive a woman’s reaction as emotional (even if it’s not). It’s like saying that a woman is being too dramatic or over the top.

11) Saying you “never” or “always” do something

Do you know someone who makes broad generalizations or judgments about your behavior?

For instance, they would tell you something like “you’re always doing it the other way around,” or “you never learn from your mistakes.”

This makes you feel like being put in a box. It’s a sign that this person has a condescending personality.

Organizational-culture expert Jennifer Anna Chatman, Ph.D. shares that “these words are extreme qualifiers are never 100 percent true, and using them can evoke a sense of exasperation.”

12) Using the words “actually” and “just” several times

There are hurtful and intimidating words that can make people feel inferior.

Hearing these words is like getting a backhand compliment – which is worse than getting no praise at all.

For instance, someone at a meeting says, “Hey, I actually thought it’s a good idea.”

This person seems to expect too little from you and sounds surprised by your contribution.

It’s like saying, “I never expect that from you.”

Or when someone tells you, “It’s simple. You just need to do it this way.”

13) Disregarding your boundaries

If you’ve been clear about your time and space, this person would continue to behave the way they want to.

This person feels entitled to cross those limits. Like they would talk to you when you say you don’t want to be disturbed, or they would come over anytime they want to.

Not only does this person violate your wishes, but they also disrespect you.

Healthy relationships are based on trust and respect for boundaries. But condescending people can’t do that.

14) Interrupting to correct pronunciation

Don’t be too sensitive when someone corrects you.

While this may look like someone is trying to be helpful, it can quickly go overboard and become patronizing.

If it becomes an ongoing issue, then it may be something you want to talk about with them.

Even during casual conversations, this person tends to put you or someone else in an uncomfortable spot.

They tend to break in just to correct you whenever you mispronounce a word or name.

15) Pretending to be concerned about your welfare

You can almost feel that they truly care about you, but they’re not.

This is what condescending people do.

Their false sense of concern can be mistaken as real, but it’s a ploy to catch you at your weakest.

When they get to appeal to your sentimentality, either they would point out what you’ve done wrong or would say those famous, “I told you so” lines.

See, this would just make you feel a lot worse than before.

16) Patting people on the head

Our head is one of the most sacred parts of our body.

There are some instances where patting someone on the back or shoulder is acceptable. But patting on the head is a different thing – and not okay.

No one deserves a pat on the head.

Patting on the head is like imposing oneself on someone else.  See, if this person pats you, you’ll tend to look up.

This gives them a feeling of superiority above you. It’s rude especially if this person is not your friend or family member.

17) Communicating with too much sarcasm

Sarcastic statements can be both funny and mean as it’s like a true lie.

If you happen to hear someone make too many sarcastic remarks like “yeah, right,” “whatever,” or “really,”, then it’s a sign of a condescending person.

This kind of behavior is actually rooted in anger, distrust, and weakness.

They are used to talking with sarcasm; they couldn’t quite bring themselves to say what they meant directly. They also don’t realize that they’re already hurting the feelings of other people.

They even say the opposite of what’s true to make someone feel or look foolish.

18) Unhappy for you

A condescending person will always find a reason to make you feel inferior.

Even if you’re excited about your out-of-town trip, they would say that “You won’t enjoy your stay there.”

Or if you got a big project coming up, they might say, “You can’t handle that amount of work.”

Instead of getting their support, you could feel a sense of jealousy.

Based on a Psych Central article, “they will try to out-talk you, speak to you in a condescending manner, and manipulate you into thinking you are wrong and your feelings don’t matter.”

See, they have no interest in what’s important to you.

They’re unhappy with the wonderful things that you have and everything that’s happening in your life.

Why people condescend

With those signs mentioned above, it’s easy to know if someone is being condescending or not. But it’s hard to sense if we’re already doing it ourselves.

See sometimes, we have exhibited one or more of these behaviors without realizing it.

Understanding the behavior and traits of a condescending person will also help you take control of your actions so you can work on them before you turn out to be condescending.

According to Joni Siani, a communications and media professor at Manhattanville College, when someone demonstrates condescension, it’s showing a need for power, to keep people feeling small so they feel bigger.

There are several reasons why people condescend. These includes:

  • They make themselves the focus of attention and feel superior.
  • Their insecurity is so overwhelming that they need to put themselves above the people around them.
  • They use condescension as a protective mechanism to draw attention away from their weaknesses and misfortunes.
  • They may have emotional baggage and self-help issues.

Their superiority and sarcastic attitude make you feel bad about not knowing or having something. This behavior comes from a place of doubt within oneself.

While their bragging and complaining could come unintentionally, it’s harmful to your health and mental wellbeing. It sets off an internal trigger that makes us feel silly, inferior,  inadequate, and pressured.

A condescending person is negative energy.  They’re coming from a place that feels like the center of the world – which is themselves.

A study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, reveals that being with a negative person increases your risk of having heart disease, diabetes, and metabolism issues.

So the next time you encounter a condescending person, try your best to avoid that person at all.

Protect yourself from absorbing their negative energy.

10 practical tips to deal with condescending people

If you’re tired of being condescended to, there are effective ways you can handle those patronizing people around you.

There are ways to handle this kind of situation without fighting fire with fire.

Even if this won’t solve the situation, hopefully, it will help the next time you deal with an idiot who gives you that attitude.

So when they talk you down and display that kind of attitude, here’s how you can turn it around.

1) Take a deep breath before responding

When communicating with a condescending person, pause for a moment.

Stay calm and try not to lose your temper. This will prevent the situation from turning worse.

Here’s how you can think before you speak.

2) Be assertive without condescending

This person will often test your patience and boundaries.

Even if they’re a friend or a family member, be firm about your boundaries without making them feel bad.

If your older siblings are always condescending, say, “I get frustrated when you talk to me like a little kid.”

Also, remind them of your wishes and needs. If they need something from you, tell them what you can do for them.

3) Avoid sharing private matters with them

According to Psychology Today, condescension is manifest envy.

If they ask what’s going on with your life, keep everything neutral. General answers will do.

Avoid discussing problems in your personal or family life.

Even if things are going well for you, refrain from going on the small details so as not to fire up their jealousy streak.

Remember that they might use all that information to attack your strengths and weaknesses when an opportunity comes.

4) Be honest

Learn to stand up for yourself.

Inform the person that their words and actions are uncalled for. Say that you don’t appreciate being talked down.

Sometimes the other person doesn’t realize that he’s already being condescending.

5) Show kindness if you can

Avoid engaging in bitter, nasty, and negative exchange of words. This will only aggravate the situation you’re in and make you and them become bitter people.

Instead of shouting back, “You’re a jerk!” – practice kindness.

Tell this person that you value his opinion, and you care about his thoughts. Let this person know that he’s not welcome to insult you.

Doing this will tend to stop the person from patronizing and bickering you.

Better if you can stay friendly and approachable. This way, the other party is more willing to hear what you have to say.

6) Practice non-defensive communication

Your choice of words matters a lot. Being defensive and responding with anger will ruin your chances of resolving the situation.

For instance, when someone says, “It’s best if you just do this.”

Avoid reacting negatively and tell the person they’re wrong.

Try to respond with warmth like, “I understand your point. Let me share why I think it would be difficult for me to do that.”

7) Be aware of your body language

When communicating with this person, watch your body language. Non-verbal communication is important when you’re facing conflicts.

Watch you say and avoid these judgemental body languages:

  • Crossing your arms
  • Pointing your fingers
  • Rolling your eyes
  • Getting in the person’s face
  • Standing above the person while he or she sits

Instead, neutralize and keep your body language open. Either you stand or sit straight – and hold your ground.

8) See things from their perspective

Before you call them out, see if their comments present any valuable feedback. Consider the information they’re trying to communicate.

Even if they could come off as a little bit annoying, they could even mean something else too.

Try to rise above your situation and your feelings. And find a way on how you can understand their behavior and point of view.

Maybe they have no clue that you feel belittled and offended.

9) Ask for clarification

Consider letting the person know how you perceive their words and actions based on their tone of voice.

Call them on it without making a scene or being dramatic.

Question their actions so the next time around, there’s a chance that they would think before acting condescendingly.

Most of the time, this person isn’t aware of it and will appreciate your heads up.

11) Nod, smile, and move on

When all else fails, ignore it.

Most of the time, the best and easiest way to deal with a condescending person is to move on.

If you know that the person is having a bad day and says things unintentionally, be understanding.

But if this toxic person regularly says stupid things – and you can’t stand them anymore, move away and avoid being around them.

Remember: It’s not about you

Realize that this condescending person in your life is just like the rest of us.

While it’s not your place to help them see the good in themselves, you can certainly try.  No matter how much you care, they will only change if they want to.

You can only offer them your empathy, understanding, and support.

And don’t take things personally

In any aspect of your life, other people’s behavior is always more about them than it is about you.

Condescending people tend to project themselves. It’s their reality, not yours.

Remember, this person might be trying to provoke you – so don’t allow it to happen.

Even if you can’t change their behavior, you can control its impact on your life. Whatever they say or do, don’t let it make you feel less of a person.

You know yourself better, so don’t let them steal your joy. Protect your spirit and self-esteem.

It’s best to focus on the one thing you can control – and that’s you.

You are responsible for your thoughts, emotions, and actions.

Live with kindness

Your understanding and compassion can go a long way in turning tables into positive ones.

Be calm, positive, and never underestimate the power of kindness in every negative situation.

Remember, it’s always best to be the person who genuinely sees the good in others.

Be that person.


Did you like my article? Like me on Facebook to see more articles like this in your feed.

Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

4 reasons why love is a popular subject in poetry

10 reasons why she is nervous around you