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By Karen Casanovas
For Senior Voice 

Empowered responses: Dealing with condescending remarks


April 1, 2024 | View PDF

Q: How do I handle rude, hurtful or condescending comments by family members or people who are part of my care team?

A: In our daily interactions, we occasionally encounter individuals who seem to thrive on making demeaning and condescending remarks. These remarks can be hurtful, frustrating, and overwhelming, leaving us searching for ways to respond and maintain our dignity. Let us explore some strategies and empowering approaches to handle condescending remarks and regain control over such situations.

Stay calm and composed. It is essential to remain calm and composed when confronted with condescending remarks. Take a deep breath and resist the urge to react impulsively. Maintaining your own emotional balance will help to keep the conversation on a more respectful and constructive path. Allow time to hear all their comments to obtain full clarity. Do not get defensive. Even if you are disturbed by what you have heard, remain unflappable. Despite our best efforts, sometimes exchanges get heated.

Respond with confidence. Responding to condescension with calming confidence can effectively disarm the person making the remark. Prepare for resistance when you respond. Instead of allowing their words to undermine your self-worth, however, respond assertively and confidently. This can help establish boundaries and demonstrates you will not tolerate disrespectful behavior.

Reframe the conversation. Rather than engaging with the condescension directly, try reframing the conversation in a way that addresses the underlying issue. Consider statements of truth even if the delivery was inappropriate. Respond with factual information, logical arguments, or examples of your expertise. Create open and healthy dialogue. Such a redirection can shift the focus away from the condescension and toward a more meaningful discussion.

Use humor. Humor can be a powerful tool when responding to condescension. A well-placed, witty remark can challenge the person's arrogance while diffusing tension. However, it is important to ensure that the humor is not offensive or aggressive, as that could escalate the situation further.

Seek clarification. Sometimes, condescending remarks may stem from a misunderstanding or ignorance on the part of the speaker. Instead of assuming ill intentions, gain full context and understanding of their remarks. Ask open-ended questions that encourage the person to explain their viewpoint further. Address their concerns one-by-one. This approach can promote a more constructive exchange of ideas. Do not take the other person’s responses personally.

Take a break. In the face of condescending remarks, it can be tempting to engage in a heated back-and-forth, but pausing and taking a break can be a game-changer. When conversations morph into negativity and personal attacks, stepping away becomes necessary to regain perspective and diffuse tension. Being able to recognize when a conversation is spiraling downward is the first step toward finding resolution. If you observe signs of criticism, contempt, defensiveness, or stonewalling occurring, it is time to take a break. These negative behaviors only exacerbate the situation and hinder meaningful communication.

A pause offers an opportunity for both parties to calm down physically and emotionally. Physiologically, it takes about 20 minutes for the body to regulate stress levels. During this break, focus on deep breathing, grounding techniques, or engaging in activities that help restore a sense of calm and clarity. This enables you to approach the conversation with a clearer mindset. By distancing yourself from the immediate conflict, you can reflect on fundamental issues and consider alternative viewpoints. This broader outlook allows you to approach the discussion with greater awareness and understanding when you reconvene.

It is important to set a specific time to resume the conversation. Avoid letting the break extend too long, as unresolved issues can fester and hinder progress. When it's time to reconnect, approach the discussion with a commitment to respectful communication. Set ground rules emphasizing active listening, understanding and empathy.

By taking a break, you empower yourself to navigate condescension more effectively and create an environment conducive to understanding and growth rather than engaging in a blame game or allowing condescension to reignite.

Set boundaries. In situations where condescension becomes repetitive or pervasive, it is crucial to set clear boundaries. While this is not always easy, politely assert that you prefer respectful communication and that condescending remarks are unacceptable. By establishing these boundaries, you demonstrate your self-respect and provide an opportunity for the person to reflect on their behavior.


Responding to condescending remarks can be challenging, but it is vital to maintain control over the situation and preserve our dignity. By staying calm, responding confidently, reframing the conversation, utilizing humor appropriately, seeking clarification, taking a break and setting boundaries, we can effectively address condescension and promote a more respectful exchange of ideas. Remember, it is not our responsibility to change others' behavior, but we can empower ourselves by responding assertively to create a more positive and corroborative atmosphere.

Karen Casanovas, PCC, CPCC, CLIPP is a health and wellness professional coach practicing in Anchorage. If you have questions write to her at


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