11 Common Signs Of A Condescending Person

Start setting boundaries with people who think they’re better than you.

Woman looking frustrated in front of a blue background. Lucas Pezeta, Feedough / CanvaPro

Condescending people — those who talk down to you or make you feel “less than” — can be some of the hardest people to cut out of your life. 

Knowing what constitutes condescending behavior is the first step to setting clear boundaries or ending relationships that no longer serve you. 

Here are 11 common signs of a condescending person: 

1. They use terms like ‘just joking’ or ‘no offense’ to conceal their hurtful and disrespectful language 

“It’s the easiest thing, for someone to say something rude or something nasty (what you really want to say) … and then act like it’s a joke,” TikTok creator @robothighway shared of disrespectful people. “Saying some of the most rude [expletive] and then when somebody calls you out — 'Just kidding!’” 




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Often, these hurtful jabs and distasteful “jokes” come from people that we’re supposed to love and trust more than anyone. Relationship coach Annie Kaszina explained that these condescending behaviors from a partner can be a sign of something more sinister — an indicator of abuse. 


“Emotional abusers invest nothing in their relationships. What they do invest a lot in is training their partner to blind subservience,” Kaszina wrote. “They need to make you believe that you are "broken" (and crazy, and selfish — and all of that horse excrement). It’s not true.”

2. They’re always trying to appear more intimidating

The gold star indicator of a condescending person is their effort to be demeaning — they’re always looking for a sense of power or superiority over the people around them. 

Whether it be a boss at work, a teacher at school, or your parents — they’re (consciously or not) setting themselves up to be “better,” more intelligent, or more experienced. Sometimes, that means boasting about their achievements; other times, it might mean adopting a false egotistical sense of confidence. 

People who intimidate are operating from a deep sense of insecurity. They’re looking for ways to defend against threats from others (even if there aren’t any). They’re yearning for a sense of security in their own identity and talents, and unfortunately, they try to achieve it by making others feel inferior. 


3. They lack appropriate conversation skills

While interruptions in conversations feel like a simple act of disrespect or ignorance, the truth is there’s an entire psychological nature behind people who “butt into” discussions. 

Anxiety, fear, and a loss of control often drive people to interrupt — they seek to get their thoughts out quickly, control the conversation’s direction, or take up space.

11 Common Signs Of A Condescending PersonHenri Mathieu-Saint-Laurent / CanvaPro


Sometimes, these kinds of interruptions go hand-in-hand with other condescending behaviors. They value their contributions to conversations more than the person speaking — on a fundamental level — which is inherently labeled as rude or egotistical.

4. They speak to others like children

A person's tone of voice is one of the first signs of condescension. They’re belittling you in a way that isn’t always labeled as outright rude based solely on what they’re saying. Think about the way you’d speak to your 2-year-old niece or even your dog at home—that’s how condescending people talk with others. 



Online creators associated the stereotypical condescending tone with that of a “mean girl.” Think of the high school bullies, toxic bosses at work, or that one neighbor who always seems to know when your dog lingers in their yard for a little bit too long. 


For people in leadership or teaching positions, learning a kind of “comfortable confidence” can be essential to avoiding a condescending or demeaning tone — giving people a space to learn and ask questions without feeling patronized.

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5. They’re a ‘one-upper’ — always doing something bigger, better, and more exciting than everyone else 

It’s the person who’s always gone on a more lavish vacation, studied a much harder subject, or earned thousands more dollars than you—no matter what you say or what story you tell, they’ll always find a way to “be better.” 

To reassure their confidence, condescending people will try to control their image in new settings and situations — demeaning others to gain a sense of social power. On paper, this has deep roots in insecurity — but it’s just plain annoying. 


If you notice that someone is always talking about how confident they are, how smart they are, or how many friendships they’ve cultivated — the truth is they’re probably overcompensating. Condescending people prefer to be the most interesting, successful, and experienced person in every room. 

6. Condescending people often utilize sarcasm in their conversations

Sarcasm doesn’t always have to be negative. An occasional sarcastic comment in conversations actually increases the likeability and appreciation of a person. However, people who use sarcasm too often typically have a sense of hostility about them that’s hard to shake. 

11 Common Signs Of A Condescending PersonSyda Productions / CanvaPro


Sarcasm is at the root of many forms of bullying. It’s inherently intertwined with people who struggle with confidence, security, and self-assurance.

“I’m sure you could handle that…you’re so smart.” Comments like these might seem reassuring at face value, but they can be sarcastic and demeaning, depending on the context. Be mindful of their use. 

7. They appear confident 

Of course, not everyone who you view as confident is condescending, but a shocking number of condescending people adopt this persona. 

Not only is it common for these kinds of people to “have all the answers” or try to prove their worthiness by seeming “better” or “more experienced,” but they’re also looking for ways to make other people feel worse about themselves. 


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Of course, this kind of “confidence” is not representative of the true meaning of the word. In many instances, you have to ask yourself an important question: Is this person’s confidence actually a reflection of their character, experience, and position? 

Not only will condescending people put on an extroverted persona, but they’ll also try to steal the spotlight by putting others down. 

8. They lack empathy

Whether it’s your boss at work or your partner at home, people with condescending attitudes often fail to show grace. They’re likely to boast about their struggles and the favors they’ve received, but they are the last people to support or help others. 


Instead of tending to your problems, emotions, or struggles, they’ll try to reframe any conversation to favor themselves — your problems never feel big enough to take up space in your relationships. In a professional setting, this can look like your boss failing to give you grace on timelines or vacation requests. It’s dehumanizing and demeaning. 

9. They over-explain simple concepts

A 2023 study titled “Competence-Questioning Communication And Gender” revealed three main indicators of condescending behavior: “mansplaining,” ignoring, and interrupting. Not only are women more likely to experience and recognize this kind of condescending behavior from their peers at work, but they’re also most likely to be targeted by male co-workers. 

co-workers chatting martin-dm / Canva Pro


Especially in professional settings, condescending people tend to overstate their experience — hoping to seem more educated, important, and superior to those around them. Whether it be for financial, social, or personal gain, one thing is certain: women often face the brunt of this behavior. 

Condescending people often oversimplify complex topics in hopes of making the people around them feel embarrassed or less intelligent. Be wary of people who seem to know everything, have all the answers, or tie your self-worth to your “worldly trivia knowledge.” 

10. You feel embarrassed, uncomfortable, or sad after interacting with them 

Let’s be honest: sometimes, we walk away from conversations with people feeling bad about ourselves. Sometimes we notice it, sometimes we don’t, but our bodies always “clock” that feeling of inferiority before our brains can process it. 

Turns out that it’s not just us that has trouble clocking passive-aggressive, patronizing, or condescending language — even trained AI language models (e.g. NLP algorithms) have great difficulty in pinpointing it when analyzing human behavior.


Studies with these AI language models and algorithms prove that condescending language isn’t always targeted or rooted in ill intentions. In fact, the UCP Journal of Engineering & IT’s research suggested that it can be embedded in aspects of our daily lives “unintentionally and with good intentions.” 

11. They’re rude 

Of course, everyone is unique in their own way — the same is true for people with condescending tendencies and behaviors. 

Your executive boss might be condescending because they need to feel superior to you in their leadership role. On the other hand, your yoga instructor might be condescending because you’re only coming to class once a month.




A BBC study on the general treatment of service workers provided a great analysis of why condescending people tend to be rude. “People that are working those jobs often do not have a lot of power,” professor of psychology Melanie Morrison explained, “and so they become easier targets.” 

Condescending people yearn for a sense of control, importance, and, ultimately, power over the people around them. They’ll take any opportunity to feel a sense of superiority, whether they’re in the grocery store or at work. 

Ultimately, condescending people are yearning for a sense of superiority stemming from insecurity, trauma, and fear. 

While some people are aware of their toxicity, many condescending people are navigating life from an autopilot perspective, not even realizing when they’re being harmful, rude, or disrespectful. 


Their fear of being vulnerable, combined with deep-rooted insecurities, makes it almost impossible for them to interact healthily with others. If you find yourself noticing these behaviors in people in your inner circle, set clear boundaries — don’t let their rude comments, derogatory statements, and superiority complex go unchecked. 

If they care about you, they’ll take steps to seek support, change, and be more mindful of their behavior. Ultimately, you should prioritize and protect your own well-being and your inner circle’s energy. 

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Zayda Slabbekoorn is a News & Entertainment Writer at YourTango who focuses on health & wellness, social policy, and human interest stories.