10 signs of a condescending person (and how to avoid them)

Have you ever met a condescending person who gets right under your skin?

I have, and it’s no fun at all. 

Here’s how to spot a condescending person and stay as far away from them as possible. 

1) Overestimating their own intelligence

The first of the big signs of a condescending person is that they often overestimate their own intelligence. 

The condescending individual considers themselves a legend in their own mind. 

Granted, this is often because they suffer from a deep inner insecurity which they want to run away from. 

But regardless of that, their behavior itself and words often reflect the appearance of someone who basically considers themselves flawless and never in need of correcting or learning anything.

Which brings me to the next point…

2) Being unwilling to learn anything new 

Another of the top signs of a condescending person is that they refuse to learn anything new or adjust their views or information. 

If they say it, they’re right. 

Anything you or anyone else lets them know or adds to the conversation or interaction is just useless frills that they can safely ignore.

They may give you a condescending look or an “uh huh” as you say something.

The message is clear: your input is not needed. They already know everything. 

3) Pushing unwanted advice at everyone

The next of the troubling signs of a condescending person is that they push unwanted advice at everyone. 

The bottom line is clear: they believe they know how to live your life better than you do. 

If this is a parent or romantic partner it can be especially difficult to deal with.

You love them and want to hear them out, but you also need your space and your own personal agency to make your decisions and prioritize what matters to you in your own life.  

Advice can be great. But when it’s delivered with pressure and a condescending know-it-all vibe it’s very annoying and toxic

4) Being pretentious and acting superior 

This brings us to the next of the signs of a condescending person:

They are pretentious and act like they are superior to everyone. 

If they have a potential job title or thing about themselves that could set them apart, they will use this to maximum effect. 

For example, if they are especially wealthy, handsome or beautiful, they will emphasize this and look down at those who fall short of this standard in their eyes. 

This tends to make the condescending individual quite disliked, although it does draw other condescending and insecure arrogant people into their orbit in many cases. 

5) Bragging frequently and showing off 

condescending 1 10 signs of a condescending person (and how to avoid them)

Next in the top signs of a condescending person is that they frequently brag and show off. 

They may have grounds to do this, including very snazzy clothes, a nice car or a new job or partner that’s really great. 


Well, their attitude of showing off so much tends to make people resentful of them more than feeling happy for their success. 

If the condescending person would just humble themselves for a moment perhaps it would be easier to feel genuinely happy for their wins in life. 

But alas… 

6) Giving annoying nicknames to others 

Another of the annoying signs of a condescending person is that they give childish nicknames to many people. 

They may call the waiter who helps them at the restaurant “chief” or call the washing machine repair guy “boss.”

This kind of nicknaming is kind of infantile, especially when it’s a clear mockery of the lower status or job title of someone else. 

You know what I mean, chief? 

7) Putting you down

First and foremost, condescending people put you down. 

They make it clear that your accomplishments and actions mean less than theirs or fall short in some way. 

Their favorite thing is to showcase your inadequacy in front of other people and humiliate you among a crowd, if possible.

Portraying you as inadequate or wrong in front of those you love and trust is pretty much their favorite pastime. 

How to avoid them?

When somebody is trying to tear you down, stay away from them if at all possible. 

If not, let them know you won’t stand for it and do your best to have them held accountable for their unacceptable behavior. 

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8) Blaming you for their problems

The next of the top signs of a condescending person is blaming you for their problems.

This is also known as gaslighting. 

The classic example is a husband shouting and swearing at his wife, then later claiming that she “made” him do it by her behavior. 

He’s now basically said that his wife is the one who’s responsible for his actions and that anything he does is her responsibility. 

This kind of codependency is highly toxic and is common among people who don’t respect each other, where one individual has decided that he or she has power to exploit and emotionally manipulate the other

9) Trash talking others behind their backs 

One of the worst signs of a condescending person is that they like to trash talk people behind their backs. 

Many of the worst gossip stories and rumors are started by condescending people who believe they have some God-given right to assassinate people’s character.

Then again, sometimes they just find it fun. 

Think of the bitterness that this sort of behavior comes out of. 

Condescending people are not happy, otherwise they wouldn’t enjoy tearing others down so much.

10) Trying to invalidate the accomplishments of others 

Lastly, in the worst signs of a condescending person is that they try to invalidate the successes of others.

What kind of successes?

Everything, really…

You married the guy of your dreams? You got lucky or it’s just because you had the chance to get the job of your dreams and then meet him…

You ended up in a house that’s everything you ever hoped for? It’s clearly because your dad died and left you that hefty inheritance.

The message? You’re nothing and you don’t deserve your success. 

Leaving condescending people behind

It’s hard to deal with condescending people

The best approach is to follow the following five tips. 

Take a breath

Don’t let them get under your skin or escalate the situation. 

Condescending people are basically stuck inside a negativity cycle

The more you feed into it, the worse it’s going to get. 

They will also feel justified in treating you as lesser than them or an enemy. 

Take a deep breath before responding or interacting with a condescending person. 

Make sure you’re not responding impulsively or with emotional anger. It won’t help. 

Respond firmly but not angrily

Workplace 1 10 signs of a condescending person (and how to avoid them)

When you do respond to a condescending person, do so firmly but without emotionalized drama

Let them know that you do not appreciate being spoken to in that way and that you won’t tolerate it more. 

Say that you respect their accomplishments and respect them but that the way you communicate and what you expect is different. 

Try to move forward on a positive or at least neutral note. 

Don’t overshare (positive or negative!) 

One of the worst things that happens with condescending people is that they use what you tell them against you. 

If you share positive or troubling news from your life, they will eventually dredge it back up and double it back on you.

“Yeah, well remember when you complained about how annoying your girlfriend was…?”

“OK, so you think this restaurant’s too expensive? Yeah…I remember last month you were saying your new job was big money. How did that end up going?”

These kind of passive aggressive and sarcastic interactions happen when you overshare with a condescending or bitter person.

To avoid falling into their pattern, try to keep your positive or negative personal news away from their ears. Keep interactions as neutral and non-personal as possible.

Stand up for yourself 

You have the absolute right and even duty (I would say!) to stand up for yourself

You are not obligated to put up with condescending behavior even if it’s from family members or a loved one. 

But in order to stand up for yourself effectively, it’s important to focus on how the words and behavior of a condescending person affects you.

Don’t focus on what they’re doing wrong, focus on how it’s affecting you and why you’d prefer they stop doing that.

“I know you don’t mean to say it this way, but when you talk about my girlfriend in that way it makes me feel really sad…”

And so on…

Look for win-win interactions 

As much as possible, avoid condescending people altogether. 

When you see signs of it, walk away or minimize your interaction.

However, if condescending people are part of your life or you are dealing with someone who’s become quite condescending in the past few months when they didn’t use to be…

Look for win-win situations.

Try to build them up so they can see how much better it is to cooperate than to tear down.

We’re always stronger together, and sometimes condescending people just need a reminder that they can be a decent person and still feel valued and powerful.

Picture of Paul Brian

Paul Brian

Paul R. Brian is a freelance journalist and writer who has reported from around the world, focusing on religion, culture and geopolitics. Follow him on www.twitter.com/paulrbrian and visit his website at www.paulrbrian.com

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