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Questions that are condescending

There was a guy I talked to recently who had a habit of being arrogant and asking condescending questions.

The questions came from an entitled mentality.

(He did ask to remain in contact bit then I denied and cut him out of my life).

The examples of questions he asked are.

"What are you contributing to society?"

"Are you any good at that?" (Whenever I mention my hobby or job). 

"Tell me something that would interest me"


Now my response to these was

"What sort of a question is that to ask someone?"

but his response to that was to laugh and continue to push that question.


How would you have responded to such questions when asked in a group situation? (Given you can't just walk away like in a one-one situation).





John Freeman, Bel and leaderoffun have reacted to this post.
John FreemanBelleaderoffun

I think your comeback was great, and also your final closing in the face of his false friendly opening was great!

My take here would be to use sarcasm back, and in the last case to reframe him as the one who has to say something:

Him: "What are you contributing to society?"

You: Certainly more than you. (laugh)

Him: "Are you any good at that?" (Whenever I mention my hobby or job). 

You: Certainly better than you are at making friends. (laugh)

Him: "Tell me something that would interest me"

You: I'm not into storytelling, but since you seem to be, tell me something yourself.

In case he laughs back and pushes the question, I would have gone on full attack with the "you're ill-mannered" technique:

Him: "What are you contributing to society?"

You: What sort of a question is that?

Him: (laugh) "No seriously, what are you contributing to society?

You: You seem seriously ill-mannered, so this conversation ends here.

John Freeman and Growfast have reacted to this post.
John FreemanGrowfast

Hello Growfast,

I think your response was alright. You did defend and you did surface it. He still laughed so probably your tone was an annoyed tone. The surfacing shows also some level of investment by showing that you care somehow.

To me, this person is pushing your buttons. So to address the root cause, I would reflect on: "Why is that bothering me?" or "Why is this person bothering me?"

He's laughing because he got a reaction out of you I think. I.e.: He thinks: "I have power over you through your emotional reaction, I can make you feel X" in this case X being annoyed or bothered or irritated.

So addressing the root cause will remove the link between what he says to you (including the tone) and you reaction.

I read Bel's answer. However, I would not recommend this road because:

  1. You would answer at the same level he's attacking you (Not so Eagle like)
  2. You risk to go in an escalation (Turkey spiral)

To me, these make me laugh when I read them, they're so childish and full of envy/jealousy/nastiness that it sounds ridiculous to me. Here are some reactions I would have

Him: "What are you contributing to society?"

You: Hahahaha (genuine laugh), hey man, relax! (smiles)."

From here you can go towards genuine empathy: "you had a bad week or something?" if he says "no" -> "because you look angry and stuff" and then he has to explain himself or drop it. If he says "yes", just listen to him. I don't know how close you are. It does not matter. What matters is that by showing empathy you show that 1. It's not affecting you, 2. You have enough emotional intelligence to care for him. I.E. the frame is: "you must feel bad inside to be this nasty (which is often the case) and I'm here to care as a friend". This is not passive aggressive, nor a one up: it must be genuine.

Him: Are you any good at that? (Whenever I mention my hobby or job).

You: Hahaha (genuine laughs, shake of head, proceed to continue what you were saying).

You treat him like someone who interrupted you just out of nastiness. No need to explain, everybody will understand. If you address his question like above, you buy into his frame and show you took it seriously. Would you take seriously a 3 year old child who says that you stink? Exactly. You would laugh.

Tell me something that would interest me

(frowns) WTF man! I'm not here to entertain you. Hahaha (genuine laughs)

As if it was ridiculous, which it is.

In summary:

  1. I would address the underlying mindset (the button) that he pushes on (in the mean time I would hide my emotional reaction as much as possible)
  2. I would go higher as an eagle and fly high
  3. I would keep him at an arm's length as this guy shows frenemy signs
  4. Another option from 3. would be to reflect on what led to this situation between you two: rivalry? if yes on what topic? if no: unsaid things? not compatible as friends? friendship from a context that does not exist anymore? Bad character from him?


Lucio Buffalmano, lilsim and 2 other users have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanolilsimTransitionedGrowfast

Thanks guys nice case study. And John nailed it.    I agree.  When it's this obviously rude best to dismiss.

Small tail

I was wondering about using the power of the group.  " C'mon man we re hanging/chilling.  Don't kill the vibe"

Trying to point out that he s not just a killing the rapport with you he s bringing the mood down

Lucio Buffalmano, John Freeman and 2 other users have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoJohn FreemanGrowfastBel

These types of questions may be all the same, but also slightly different cases (you know better).

For example, albeit all disempowering indeed, "are you any good at that" is not as challenging or as directly challenging or disempowering as the others.

Quote from Growfast on September 22, 2022, 7:24 pm

but his response to that was to laugh and continue to push that question.

Have you thought of this as just a frame battle and "power showdown"?

He is tasking & leading, and you are refusing his task & leadership.

Whether you take him seriously or not, whether you escalate right away or not, and independently of the techniques you want to use, the foundations of the exchange are still the same.

His frame:

  • You need to answer me = take me seriously

VS your frame:

  • I don't need to answer it (because it's dumb/disempowering/disrespectful) = I don't take it seriously

If he stopped at your first refusal, then it would be a successfully checked power move.

But from the moment he keeps pushing his request you enter the showdown territory (lesson in PU with that name).

There are many techniques and approaches you can take.
But the most important thing is the conviction and resolve with which you hold your ground.

John Freeman, Transitioned and 2 other users have reacted to this post.
John FreemanTransitionedGrowfastBel
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?