Have you ever felt patronized? Have you ever been in a situation where the smiling face doesn’t match the condescending tone that is emitting from the person who is speaking to you? You stop hearing the words being said because your mind says, “wait now… are they insulting me?”. At least you caught on! (Wait now, was that patronizing?) Not sure? Here are some examples of sentences I’ve either experienced as directed at myself or someone else in the room, followed by my rough interpretation of what the real meaning behind the added tone and body language seemed to be at the time.
Examples of tone-contradicting sentences:
- “You’re an educated person, you know what to do.”
- What it really means – You are a person, who has in the past, attended an educational facility. You’re not as smart as I am, but if I tell you that you’re smart, you’ll probably feel flattered having that come from someone as prestigious as myself. This way I don’t have to bother trying to explain this bullshit I’m trying to push passed you because you’ll be too busy trying to look like you’re smart enough to have figured it out and agree.
- “You tried your best though didn’t you.”
- What it really means – You poor stupid dear, you just aren’t capable of doing that are you? But I can’t ask you this because you’re too stupid to follow my line of questioning.
- “I guess you must have been really busy in order to still not be able to get this done.”
- What it really means – All of these things are probably just too hard for you. Either that or you’re just lazy. I’ll see if I can get you some crayons.
- “I guess we just have different tastes.”
- What it really means – You have no taste. You probably should never tell anyone you like anything to do with that, ever. It embarrasses you, and wastes everyone else’s time, but you wouldn’t even realize.
- “You’re smart enough to figure this out.”
- What it really means – I don’t really believe this for a second, but I want to stop talking to you because I feel like I’m getting less intelligent with each passing moment that I spend here speaking to you. If I have to stay here any longer and help you I’m going to want to pull out my own teeth with a staple remover.
- “Come on now gang, you should know how to do this. We’re an educated group of people here.”
- Said by the person in the room with the most education who clearly does not want to participate in finding an answer to the problem. Their real skills are in delegation and deferral, mixed with insults and condescension. What it really means – The lack of intelligence in this room insults me and I can’t even be bothered to participate in thinking with these idiots. It will be a good learning exercise for them to do this, if they’re even capable, otherwise I’ll end up just having to spend the rest of my day explaining everything to them.
- “It’s because of your ‘X’ (insert known affliction here, e.g. anxiety) that you can’t do this isn’t it.”
- What it really means – You’re useless and I don’t know why you bother still trying to work with your ‘disabling’ issue. Everyone experiences ‘X’ sometimes, just learn how to cope already, lazy.
- “You’re just over-reacting because you’ve been under a lot of stress lately.”
- What it really means – It’s not necessary to be upset over that, your issue is trivial. Usually said in reference to an issue that the speaker has not yet had to deal with personally. This later becomes very satisfying for the person on the receiving end to watch the patroniser have this exact same issue then become a problem for themselves. (Just enjoy the show and don’t mention that it’s an over-reaction or not that big of a deal.)
I’m sure there’s many more examples. If I only knew how to convey the theatrical body language that goes along with those, unbeknownst to the speaker at the time of course. All of those internal feelings that can’t help but excrete themselves out in other ways while they’re trying to desperately hold a smile. Maybe someday…
Happy Friday, may your weekend communications be full of un-insulting tone!