If someone uses these 8 phrases, they’re being condescending towards you

Do you often wonder whether you are being insensitive or someone is just condescending? 

If so, this article will give you the clarity and understanding to spot arrogance from a mile off.

I’m sure you will have heard several of these in the past, coming out of the mouths of patronizing bosses, narcissistic partners, or toxic friends.

And hey, we are not perfect, so you may have let one or two slip yourself too!

Here are 8 common phrases that condescending people love to use. 

1) “You always do …”

This is one of the most common condescending phrases people use when arguing with their significant other.

However, saying “always” or “never” can damage the relationship and ignite the feud further, as it exaggerates the truth. 

For example, your partner saying you “never” take the trash out is likely untrue. Not only this, but according to the American Sociological Review, when this phrase is used regularly in relationships, it can be a form of gaslighting. 

You might think, “I’m sure I took the trash out yesterday; am I going crazy?”

You’re not going crazy; your partner is exaggerating because they disapprove of what you do or don’t do, and they see themselves as better than you.

Replacing “never” with “rarely” and “always” with “often” will cause far less harm to the relationship and remove the energy of superiority.

This brings me to the next common phrase condescending people use, another exaggeration of the truth…

2) “Everyone knows that”

Firstly, it is highly unlikely that everyone in the entire world knows it.

Secondly, condescending people do not use this phrase to say something is common knowledge but rather to make you feel stupid.

Going deeper:

People who use this phrase have low self-esteem. You may tell them something interesting you just found out, and they use this as an opportunity to make you feel stupid so that they can feel better about themselves. 

People may also use this phrase to shut you up while making you feel bad for saying it in the first place.

When someone uses this phrase with you regularly, it can cause you to hold back from telling that person anything due to fear of being made to look stupid again.

Another situation where you might hear this phrase is when you ask someone how to do something.

They might reply with something like, “Are you serious? Everyone knows how to do that”.

Even if it seems easy and self-explanatory to them, there is no need to belittle you for not understanding something.

3) “Why are you doing it that way?”

When someone uses this phrase to question how you’re doing something, it shows they are close-minded and believe they know best. 

This is a common expression used by managers in the workplace who are set in their ways. If they see you doing a process in a new way, they lose their mind, believing that you are messing everything up. 

In reality, you may have found a more efficient or faster way to do something.

However, either the close-mindedness of the condescending person prevents them from seeing that, or they simply don’t want to admit that your way is better.

This stems from a desire for control and the inability to delegate and empower others.

4) “Good luck with that!”

not so subtle signs someone lacks emotional intelligence If someone uses these 8 phrases, they’re being condescending towards you

When someone uses this phrase, they are not sincerely wishing you good luck but are trying to make it clear (without directly saying it) that they think you will fail. 

Usually, it’s down to one of these things:

  • They don’t think your idea is good 
  • They don’t believe you are capable of achieving it
  • They think you can only achieve it with luck rather than your skills, experience, and knowledge.

Saying “Good luck with that” is a very passive-aggressive way to say, “Ha, your idea sucks!” or “You’re gonna need a stroke of luck to pull that off.”

A more supportive phrase is “let me know if you need any help,” which shows you believe in them enough to help them achieve it. 

Here is a similar condescending phrase you should avoid…

5) “Are you sure that’s a good idea?”

Again, this is a condescending and indirect way to say something is a bad idea. However, it is also manipulative as the person saying it tries to make you question yourself.

Not only condescending people use this expression; narcissists also use it in relationships.

For example, if you’re excited about a great business idea and tell your partner about it and they reply with this phrase, they may be maliciously trying to burst your bubble and bring you down.

If someone supports and cares for you but worries that it is not a good idea, they should offer another suggestion rather than just make you question yourself.

A better phrase would be, “That sounds great; a similar idea you might want to consider is …”

6) “I understand, but…”

When someone says to you, “I understand, but…” they are actually saying, “I don’t agree with you, and I’m not even trying to understand where you’re coming from.” 

Condescending people believe they are always right; they cannot see things from someone else’s perspective.

They also don’t like it when you question their beliefs, so they immediately want to shut you down.

Respectful and humble people are open to hearing other people’s beliefs and feelings.

Even if they disagree with you, they are willing to listen. And instead of saying, “I understand, but..” and then continuing with what they think, they will try to understand you by asking questions. 

If someone uses this phrase in an argument where they are desperate to get their point across, it would be better to replace “but” with “and,” such as:

“I understand what you are saying, AND…” and then proceed to share their view.

This way, they are not shutting you down and invalidating your feelings.

Here’s another condescending phrase featuring that annoying word, “but”…

7) “No offense, but…”

This common expression can take many forms, such as:

“I don’t want to be rude, but…”

“I don’t mean to offend you, but…”

People add the word “but” in these phrases to soften the blow of something harsh they are about to tell you.

But here’s the thing…

The word “but” just cancels out whatever they said before that. It also shows that they know what they are saying is offensive but don’t care.

Now, sometimes people need to be told the truth, so I’m not saying it is bad to give “tough love” when needed.

However, in these situations, it’s better just to be direct with the feedback or criticism rather than trying to soften the blow with this condescending phrase.

Here’s another patronizing phrase that people should avoid altogether…

8) “Just relax”

Nothing grinds my gears more than being told to “just relax” or “calm down” when I’m stressed.

This phrase is not just condescending; it is entirely useless.


Because no one chooses to get stressed or agitated; of course, we want to relax, but the problem is that at that moment, we cannot. 

Someone telling us to relax or calm down never helps; in fact, it only makes us more annoyed. It also makes us feel like the other person doesn’t understand our angst. 

Condescending people often use this phrase when they think you are overreacting. Even if that is the case, saying “just relax” is insensitive to your feelings. 

Instead, it would be much more helpful for them to ask what is causing you to feel so stressed or, better yet, if there is anything they can do to help.

Final thoughts

If you’re unsure if someone is being condescending towards you, listen out for these phrases. 

But be aware of their tone and body language too.

According to the Mehrabian rule, only 7% of our communication comes from spoken words. 38% is the tone we use, while a staggering 55% is our body language.

Do they always sound sarcastic? Do they laugh or sigh at you before responding? Or do you spot them rolling their eyes when they are speaking?

If yes, consider setting some boundaries with this person to protect your energy and mental health, and fast!

Picture of Gemma Clarke

Gemma Clarke

I am a certified yoga and mindfulness teacher and an experienced content writer in the spirituality and personal growth space. I’m passionate about sharing my expertise through the power of words to inspire and guide others along the path of personal and spiritual development.

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