We’ve all dealt with condescending people. Those people who talk down to us and claim to know everything, when they really know nothing. If there’s a silver lining to condescending people, it’s the opportunity to completely shut them down, especially when you yourself actually can speak on a subject accurately and authoritatively.
Here are some examples of people being condescending and, at the same time, totally off base.
1. No One Wants to Hear About Your Favorite Obscure Bands
So I have a PhD in musicology. The number of random people I encounter who give me unsolicited music advice and deign to explain to me the nuances of their favorite band that I’ve never heard of is UNREAL. Like, it happens so often that I now don’t tell people the field in which I have my degree if that tidbit of info is at all possible to avoid.
So one time, I had this dude who worked at a record shop going on and on and on about some 70s band I’d never heard of, and I grew tired of it and tried to politely excuse myself. He then got super grumpy and increasingly volatile until he said, “It’s not like you’re a music professor at Harvard and I’m not!” To which I got to reply, while leaving: “Actually, I was invited to teach for a semester at Harvard recently. Have a nice day.”
2. The Employee Isn’t Always Right
I was in a computer store getting a cable or something for a PC build. The customer next to me flags down the sales guy and asks to buy a sound card for their laptop. He looks at the lady like an idiot and then goes on for a minute or so about how they don’t even make such a product. I got a PCMCIA sound card off the shelf behind the sales guy and handed it to the customer, then walked away.
3. At Least Everyone Was Understanding
Back over the summer, my wife and I had a cookout and, as we do sometimes, we invited some of the neighbors, including a family who had just moved in a few weeks before. As we’re all hanging out, my wife noticed the wife of the new family was constantly on the phone, so she asked her if everything was okay and if she needed help.
The woman explained that her father had suffered a heart attack a few nights before and that her mother was just keeping her “in the loop.” She then said they were also looking into legal action of some kind because her father had several broken ribs after the heart attack, and that someone must have been “too rough” on him.
At that point, my wife said, “I don’t think it’s that they were too rough on him. If they had to perform CPR, it’s highly likely that is when his ribs got broken. It’s unfortunate but, statistically, broken or cracked ribs happen about 30-40% of the time.” The woman looked at my wife and said, “I don’t need your opinion or some factoid you picked up while surfing the Internet.”
My wife kind of shrugged and said, “Actually, I didn’t read that on the Internet. It’s a fact that I learned when I was doing my training to become a paramedic, and they told us it would happen. It still scared the heck out of me the first time it happened, though…and I still whisper ‘I’m sorry’ when it happens to this day 15+ years later.”
After confirming with several other people there that my wife is, indeed, a paramedic with over 15 years of experience and knew what she was talking about, she apologized for her “snippy” answer and said she was “just stressed out.”
4. What an Embarrassing Situation
A woman at a snooty scholarship dinner was telling me how she was doing the “boot camp”-type workouts and how they are EXACTLY like what they do in the US army and just as difficult. I was fine with her thinking that, but I mentioned it’s easy to workout hard for one hour and then go home to a warm house. She asked, “What do you even know about it, did you get second-hand info from your boyfriend?”
I asked her to open her event program, as I was the key speaker on female veteran post-military experiences, and my topic was “lack of visibility of the female veteran.”
5. Fudging Your Credentials
I’m a fire alarm technician, and our company just hired this guy who claimed to have worked for Mircom for 10 years as a programmer. We were working together at a site, which had a Mircom panel. I simply asked him to bypass the system while I did call monitoring. He couldn’t do it.
6. “Ref, You Suck!”
I was coaching a girl’s basketball team in an entirely unimportant high school tournament that solely existed for the kids to have fun playing basketball. Before the game, the referee made a huge fuss about what kind of hair ties and scrunchies the girls could and couldn’t wear, asking several of my players to remove their hair ties “because the official rules don’t allow that kind of material.”
Two of my players were close to tears. I told the ref to please change his socks. He looked at me all dumbfounded and blurted out “What?!” I said, “You’re wearing white socks. The official rules require the ref to wear black socks.” He didn’t believe me, so I whipped out the rulebook and pointed out the relevant rule. He turned bright red and we started the game with everybody wearing their original hair ties and socks.
7. SEO 101
My little brother’s friend who has worked in marketing for six months tried to explain how he “cracked” Google’s SEO algorithm and could get anything to the front page of Google in a week. I’ve worked knee-deep in SEO for almost a decade, and I still have little to no idea what drives the algorithm other than speculation and trial and error.
I just smiled and nodded while he told me image file names play a huge role in page ranking.
8. The Cashier Needs a Refresher
I had a cashier get snooty with me when I told him he needed to hit F5 to get back from the credit card screen. He went into a several-minute tirade about how he had been using the software for years, and that’s not how it worked. Then he went on a tangent about how they log his key presses and something about the servers upstairs and how it connected to the cloud.
I finally had to interrupt him with “Dude, I helped write this software, nothing you said is right.” He then stormed off from the register and I just stood there awkward until a manager showed up and pressed F5.
9. A Downside of Being a Doctor
People “explain” medical things to me on a fairly regular basis. Unless they’re being a total jerk, I kind of gently let them know I’m a doctor and re-explain what they said back to them in the correct way.
10. Spinning a Rotor of Misinformation
There was this one time when I had to listen to a boy around 15 years old badly explain how helicopters work to me. I never told him I used to be a helicopter mechanic.
11. The Boxing Gym Is the Worst Place to Be Arrogant
I went to a boxing class. One of the newer (I noticed by his experience) guys started teaching me how to jab right off the bat and I just went with it. Then started teaching me how to move, etc. I never asked him to, he approached me and just started. Then came sparring and I beat the living daylights out of him. That’s when he found out he probably should have asked if I boxed before.
12. Handle Warcraft With Caution
I was getting a drink at an airport bar next to some guys who were talking about the recent strikes in Syria. The guy said they launched Tomahawk missiles off the aircraft carrier. I spoke up in a friendly way and said that it was from a carrier strike group and not the carrier itself. He was adamant that they launch Tomahawks from the aircraft carrier.
I said no, Tomahawk missiles only launch from destroyers, cruisers, and subs. Cue about five minutes of him explaining how he knew a guy who was in the Navy and he was pretty sure he knew what he was talking about. Mind you, this was a friendly conversation, so I got to smile and drop the bomb on him in an all around good way.
I was a Tomahawk Fire Controlman in the Navy, and helped Launch Area coordinate in the Red Sea during the gas attack crisis.
13. Never Judge a Skateboarder by Their Skateboard
An old taxi driver picked me up on my way to a skate park with my skateboard in tow. He rudely demanded to know where I had been skateboarding (nowhere yet, I was on my way to the park). He informed me that if I collided with someone his age on the sidewalk, they had an 80% chance of dying from a brain haemorrhage.
I politely informed him that this was unlikely and that I hadn’t been skating on the sidewalk. He then told me to “ask anyone in the medical profession” and they will confirm it. I then politely informed him that I’m an ER doctor, and he changed his manner with me completely and became very respectful and interested once he realized I wasn’t just some skater punk.
14. When Upselling Goes Wrong
I was coordinating the installation of close to 2,000 televisions on a cruise ship. One particular install was tricky because it was in a tight space and all the screens were too large. So I ducked out to a big box store to pick up a smaller screen. The salesman was explaining how difficult it is to install plasma screens and that I needed to hire one of their “experts who know which specific monster cable to use” for optimal viewing.
He kept coming out with a bunch of outright lies to try and upsell me. I ended up saying something to the effect of, “Listen mate, I’ve installed more TVs than you’ve had hot dinners, so kindly ring up just the television so I can be on my way.”
15. How Soap Really Works
I had a guy come into my chemistry lab and describe how soap breaks carbon chains down into elemental carbon, letting it be washed away. I just let it slide, he was so committed! As long as you’re reading, soap forms micelles (microbubbles) to trap dirt and oil. The outside of the bubble is water attracting, which allows the dirt bubble to be washed away.
No specific chemical reactions take place.
16. The Mysteries of the Cloud
Every once in a while, tech support will escalate an issue to me, and I’ll have to listen to a customer try to explain to me how my own program works. I don’t care how many times you tell me that “It won’t sync to the cloud.” An application that doesn’t even connect to the Internet has never, and will never, do that.
17. Serious DNDer Not Taken Seriously
I’m a young woman who has been playing Dungeons and Dragons (and similar roleplaying games) since I was a child. It’s been almost two decades now. I’ve played almost every week in some way or another for about the last 10 years. I actually have a side job writing system agnostic content for tabletop RPGs. So I know my stuff.
Almost every time I encounter a new group or talk about my interest in a public setting (say a party or something), some dude has to come out of the woodwork and try to explain to me how the game works. I’ve become very good at casually mentioning how long I’ve been playing. Usually, that gets the hint across, but some still keep right on going.
18. Respect the Doctorate
It happens every day. I’m a PhD chemist in a sea of BSc chemical engineers who think they know everything. One of them even told me to use acetone to put out a fire.
19. Let Her Plumb
When the rotted P-trap under my sink broke, my boyfriend said, “Remind me to take a look at that.” I asked, “Why?” He said, “So I can tell you what parts to buy.” I thanked him and reminded him that I’d installed all the plumbing at my mother’s house. He knew that, but I guess he’d forgotten.
20. Being Economical With Your Retorts
I wouldn’t call myself an expert, but I have a degree in economics. I’ll have friends or family rant about the economy with not the slightest clue that what they’re saying is nonsense. I’ve corrected them before, but now I just nod it off.
21. The Mythical Bird Cheese
Long ago, I worked as the cheese guy at Whole Foods, where we were trained that NO MATTER WHAT, the customer is always right. A lady came up to me, critical that I didn’t have the ostrich cheese prominently displayed. Ostriches are birds. Cheese comes from milk, milk doesn’t come from birds. Nothing like getting called an idiot and societal scum by a woman who thinks ostrich cheese exists.
22. Way to Perpetuate Every Stereotype of a Beer Snob
I’m a woman, and I take shifts serving in the taproom to make extra money and keep my ear to the ground so to speak. My personal favorites are the guys (usually extract homebrewers) who somehow try to impress and belittle me at the same time by arguing with me about beers I literally developed the recipe for, brewed, and babysat all the way to the tap.
Most recent went something like this: “Well, I’m leaning toward the blonde but this IPA is really great. Single malt, Simcoe hops, right? Yeah, they’re all the rage nowadays, but I’ve been brewing them at home for years.” So I just said, “Right on, man, nice to meet the competition, haha. Glad you like the IPA, the malt bill is actually pretty diverse—some Special B and Munich for flavor, some oats and wheat to round it out.” Then came the worst part.
“No Simcoe in this one, actually, but you’re probably picking up some citrusy tropical notes from the calypso and galaxy in the whirlpo—” He then interrupts me: “That’s gotta be a different beer. I know Simcoe when I taste it, and this is Simcoe. I’ve been brewing with it for years! One time I won an award for my Simcoe beer! Maybe you oughta learn more about the beers you’re serving so you can keep up in conversations with real beer nerds like me, eh, sweetheart?”
“…cool. Will do.”
23. Condescending Times Two
I am a woman. I work as a doctor in the UK. I went for my compulsory basic training day to learn to ride a motorbike, and I was in a group of six others. It was a very hot day and none of us were used to being in full leathers. One person in the group overheated and felt faint and sick, so they took some time out and went to sit down.
I went to get him some water and to see if he was ok, but the instructor freaked out and told me to stay away and call for help (the guy was alert and sat up, he just needed to cool off). I again tried to just go over and see if the overheated guy was okay, but the instructor kept yelling at me to keep back and that he will handle this.
He was completely panicking and yelling at someone to call an ambulance as the guy was quite sweaty and faint. After multiple attempts of telling the instructor that I’m a doctor and if I could just go and see if the guy’s okay, he eventually relented. After 10 minutes of cooling down and some water, the guy was fine and got picked up.
We carried on with our training, but not until after the instructor asked me how long I’d been a nurse for and why I went into nursing.
24. Never Doubt a Potential Martial Arts Master
I’ve been in martial arts (tae kwon do, specifically) for 14 years, and I’m a 4th-degree black belt. I don’t claim to know everything, not even close, but I do know what I’m talking about. At my university, I decided to try out the tae kwon do club on campus. It was the first day I was trying it, and I didn’t know if we were supposed to wear uniforms or not.
So, I went in with workout clothes but brought my full gear just in case. Before the class started, one of the leaders (who was wearing a 2nd degree black belt, nothing to sniff at, but still a difference of 5 years of training) came up to me and started explaining the general protocol of class and offered to stand next to me during the class to show me how to do the different steps.
Throughout all of this, he seemed annoyed that he had to explain everything, and generally like he didn’t want new, inexperienced students. I politely agreed, and asked if we should wear our uniforms for the class. He explained that if we had them we should, but it wasn’t a problem if I didn’t have one. I explained that I did have one, and said I’d be right back.
I then proceeded to go change into my uniform. His eyes nearly popped out of his head when he saw me walk out with my instructor’s uniform and 4th-degree belt.
25. Patronizing Patrons
I am a woman who has been working in a hardware store for 12 years…that’s all I need to say.
26. The Need to Put Trust in the Experts
I’m a neuroscience PhD candidate with a focus on neuroimmunology, and I can’t count the number of times anti-vaxx mommy bloggers have tried to explain the supposed link between vaccines and autism to me (or just generally neuroscience and immunology). Unfortunately, no matter how much science I clearly spell out for them, it’s never enough.
They just yell that I’m clearly on Big Pharma’s payroll. So, I just go home, snuggle with my cats, and dream of having Big Pharma money instead of academia money.
27. Liar, Texas Bounty Hunter
I worked as a PI for bail bonds companies for nearly a decade in Texas. Anybody who’s ever been arrested apparently knows more about bail or criminal justice than me, but one of my favorites was when some rando at a bar proceeded to tell me he was a bounty hunter who had caught “hundreds” of bad criminals. So he claimed.
Here’s the rub: bounty hunting is extremely restricted in Texas. So his stories sounded like total lies. Fighting and detaining wanted people is kidnapping and incredibly stupid. So I asked him if he knew Jimmy from A1 in Abilene, knowing there is no Jimmy or A1 bail bonds. “Heck yeah! Jimmy’s good people,” he replied.
“Jimmy isn’t real dude, neither is A1.” He pulls out his phone to try to prove me wrong, scrolls through some Google searches, muttered something, and left. Anti-climatic, but oh so satisfying.
28. Dealing With the Class Know-It-All
As a grad student, I taught an undergrad class on Shakespeare. On syllabus day, we were going over the books we’d be reading at the end of the semester. I made some Iago parrot joke, and a freshman decided to explain to me that in Othello, there is actually a character named Iago. He explained that the character is the main protagonist and not, in fact, a parrot.
He then went on to explain how Disney uses Shakespeare in their films, but that doesn’t mean that these are the same stories, and so I should remember reading the book always comes above watching the movie. The joke completely went over his head and it was all really awkward. I mean, I was his professor. I didn’t know what to do.
29. Gentle Reminder to Not Talk Down to People at the Gym
One of the first times I worked out in a new gym, I had some guy try to tell me how I was doing an exercise wrong (I wasn’t). After listening to his very poor explanation of how to do it “right” (of which he still was incorrect), I set him straight, broke down his biomechanics of why he was wrong, dropped some more science on him, and then informed him that not only did I have a Master’s degree in exercise science, I was a certified personal trainer and trained military for a living.
Bottom line: just because I’m a girl in a gym, don’t assume I don’t know what I’m doing.
30. Trying to Teach the Performer
A man tried to tell me what the strings on the violin I was holding should be tuned to. I told him I knew what they were supposed to be tuned to, because it was my violin, and I’ve been playing for 16 years. I then proceeded to go play the concert that he had bought a ticket to see.
31. The Inventor Is Inside the House
My father-in-law is a little obsessive about his Keurig machine. He thinks everyone is going to break it and he insists on brewing their coffee for them. I woke up one morning and brewed my own cup. He caught me in the act and started saying I have to be careful with it, what each button does, etc. I’m a mechanical engineer who designed that particular model of Keurig brewer. I have designed and commercialized other models for other companies as well.
32. An Ace up Her Sleeve
I’ve been playing tennis for over 20 years, and I took it very seriously for about seven or eight. Simply put, if I really wanted to, I could embarrass an amateur on the court. But I don’t, because I’m not that kind of person. One day, I was having lunch with a guy who I considered to be “potential boyfriend material.”
I considered him that for maybe a split second, but I quickly came to my senses and just saw him as an acquaintance. At some point in our conversation, the subject of tennis came up, and I didn’t go into too many details but said that I’d been playing for a long time, played varsity in high school, etc. He must’ve gone deaf when I mentioned my background, because he proceeded to explain a few simple concepts as if I was brand new to the game.
After that, I suggested that we play a few rounds at a local court sometime and he agreed. The day came and we made it to the courts. I was a little rusty at first, since I hadn’t played in a while. I recall him saying something like, “don’t worry, you’ll improve.” Long story short, it didn’t take long until I was in full form and he realized that he greatly underestimated my abilities.
It was pretty clear that he was pissed off, but he didn’t say anything about it. I think we only played one more time after that, but with a few more people.
33. Don’t Ever Assume Someone Isn’t a Rock Specialist
I was working with a scaffolding company right after I finished my degree while looking for a job in mining engineering. We came across some pyrite, and one of the guys thought it was gold. I basically explained it’s not because it was hard, to which he replied with “What are you, some kind of rock specialist?” My answer was a polite but firm “Yes.”
34. Don’t Throw Demeaning Rocks at the Rock Climbing Gym
I’m a (female) competitive rock climber. One day, a few college-aged guys came into the gym I train at and clearly thought they were hot stuff. They knew a handful of climbing-specific vernacular, and that was it. They, however, thought they could “help” me on a route I was on. I wasn’t climbing at the time, I was just doing an exercise, but they were oblivious to that.
The two guys kept talking about what I should do. I kept nodding and saying okay. Then things turned: one of the guys said, “Hey don’t feel bad though, girls just aren’t good at rock climbing,” and that was something I couldn’t abide. I waited about an hour till they were working on one specific route and asked if I could hop in.
The same guy as earlier was like, “Don’t feel bad if you can’t get it, this one’s hard.” Naturally, I flew up the route. The guy just stood there baffled. I just walked away. That might be the most technically balanced and flawless climbing I have ever done.
35. Rage Against the Misinformed
That time someone called out Tom Morello from Audioslave for being “another musician who instantly became a political expert” on Twitter, and Tom Morello fired back a response about his Harvard Honors Degree in poli sci. That was tight.
36. Everyone’s Apparently a Civil War Expert
I had a friend of a friend explain the causes and effects of the American Civil War to me at a backyard party. I kept trying to take part in the conversation and he kept interrupting me. Finally, our mutual friend, overhearing our conversation/this guy’s lecture, leans in and says, “You know she got her grad degree in this, right?”
I’d love to say that learning about my credentials, so to speak, changed the tone or course of our conversation, but it didn’t. Somehow it intensified his need to explain stuff I can literally teach a class on to me. Classic.
37. Mouthing Off to an Inventor
A customer of mine asked me a question. I answered the question, and it wasn’t the answer they wanted. They suggested something impossible for the machine process. I explained why it wouldn’t work and again explained the proper way to do it. They then replied, “What makes you the expert?” all snarky and indignant.
To which I replied, “Take a look at Patent Number #xxxxxxxx. It lists me as the inventor.”
38. When Your Choice in Music Is Too Cool
I was at a party filled with people in boring IT jobs, myself included. People in those parties had this tendency to showcase how insanely cool their life was. This one guy (long hair, beard, tattoo) decided to have an argument with me and started telling me that my taste in music sucks and that I should start listening to some of the non-mainstream stuff.
When I asked him to name a few artists, he mentioned a few names. I told him to look up the guitar player for one of those bands he mentioned, which, ironically enough, was me!
39. What’s That Saying About People Who Assume?
When I was pregnant, I was drinking a decaf iced latte. I had some woman in line at the pharmacy tell me the caffeine was going to rearrange the genes in my baby’s brain. I’m a geneticist. I actually couldn’t even come up with a response. I just stood there somewhat dumbfounded at the absurdity of it all.
40. A Chemistry Experiment Gone Wrong
I had a nurse explain that I needed to drink more water so more oxygen would get to my brain. At my questioning look, he explained that H2O dissolved into oxygen and hydrogen, and the oxygen travels to the brain. I’m a chemist. And you better believe I called the clinic director right away.
41. Be Courteous to Everyone
I used to work in an air traffic control tower. We would fairly often have new pilots visit and see the airport and what happens from the air traffic control side of things. I was on a break when a particular pilot was visiting, and I was the only female air traffic controller in that workplace. The visiting pilot finishes his cup of coffee, hands me his mug and says, “Wash that would you, love.”
By the time he’d returned to his aircraft, my break was over. He, unfortunately, found himself at the back of a rather long departure queue. I wanted him to have some time listening to the frequency and absorbing the fact that if a woman is in a professional environment, she’s probably not the freaking tea lady.
42. The Origins of a Dessert
Not exactly an expert, but I overheard my Italian-American co-worker telling another co-worker that tiramisu is Japanese. His explanation was pretty in-depth. According to him, the Japanese invented it, which is why it has the phonetic structure that it does (he even pronounced it with a Japanese accent, Ti-Ra-Mi-Su).
Nonetheless, he said, the French had perfected it, creating the modern version most people are familiar with. I’m also Italian-American, though. Tiramisu is Italian for “pick me up.” I didn’t have the heart to destroy him in front of our other co-worker, but I laugh quietly to myself now whenever someone mentions tiramisu.
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