The most annoying thing about condescending people is that they don’t even realize they’re being condescending.
The guy who told me he was really surprised my client would have sent a woman to cover a sporting event was too obvious, but the one who told me he’d been following my written analysis and it was “actually pretty good” was even worse. (So you’re assuming you know what’s going on and I don’t, and that I’d be pleased at your oh-so-surprising revelation that I can actually do my job? Can I get a pat on the head, too, while you’re at it?)
The proverbial guy at the so-called progressive d.i.y. bike shop who takes the tools out of your hands when you ask him how to do something (why thank you! now I’ll be completely helpless when I try to do it on my own, because you didn’t teach me anything) is bad enough, but it’s the one who tries to explain how to do something to someone who’s in the actual process of doing it that really gets my goat. (How long would it take to see where someone’s at? Three seconds?)
And in the damning with faint praise category, just today someone told me an article of mine was well-written, and that the author I interviewed was “a sport for answering all these questions with sincerity and good will.” Um, that’s what book promotion is. Though of course, it is also a distinct possibility that an author may actually be engaged in my carefully crafted questions about topics they’re personally vested in… you know, since they wrote a book about it, and all.
The thing that makes me laugh in all these situations is that often the person who’s doling out the patronizing comments is not anywhere near an expert in the field themselves, which often leads me wondering how much of it is due to their own insecurity, especially when there’s a woman in so-called male space (like bike shops or sporting events or academia). I can just see the wheels turning in Condescending Man’s brain. (Read: “I KNOW my dick is bigger than HERS!”)
But even when it’s coming from an actual expert rather than someone who’s merely a legend in their own mind, it’s equally annoying. I’m thinking of a former client who insisted on explaining how bruschetta was pronounced at a restaurant, priding himself on being one of the chosen few to pronounce it properly. “Yes, but nobody wants to eat it with you,” I thought, silently.
Anyway, this song goes out to all of you. (And no, it’s not mine–I just found it on YouTube.)
Editor’s Note: I’m aware that all these examples are male, but they’re the ones I experience most often. Of course, there are condescending women, too.