We’ve all dealt with difficult co-workers before, but how do you handle it when someone frequently patronizes you, talking down to you instead of treating you as a colleague? The problem often arises that the person comes off as friendly or “helpful” on the surface but in reality, acts passive-aggressively. So how do you deal with it and keep your composure?
Keep it impersonal.
The minute you treat condescension as a personal attack, you get two results: You come off as defensive and overly emotional, and you potentially give them the reaction they want: They act that way as a power play. So, stay calm and go about your business, remain positive, and respond with kindness to keep the situation light and free of emotional charge.
Don’t let it go.
One of the ways to stop poor behavior is not to let the person get away with it. Call them out on their tone and words if you feel patronized or belittled. As always, keep it professional, but don’t be afraid to simply point out the tone and ask them to stop. Or, if you feel a little too heated in the moment, tell them, “When you’re ready to talk professionally, come find me at my desk.” This allows you to calm down and gather yourself before seeing the person again.
Watch your body language.
A great deal of our communication comes not from words but our bodies themselves. So, keep your own body positive (no clenched fists, finger pointing, rolling your eyes, crossing your arms) or neutral – give no sign that the other person has gotten under your skin. Keep good posture and don’t back down, literally or figuratively.
Get an explanation.
Give the person the benefit of the doubt – they may come from a company or culture that lends itself to a superior way of speaking … and they may not realize how they sound to others. If that person seems to have good qualities otherwise, it may help both of you to ask for clarification, asking if this is what they mean. Say you understand the subject, and ask if you’re missing anything more. This gives the person a chance to either double down or back down on their comment.
Behavior tells you something about the person doing it; it’s not about you. While you can only control your own behavior, your reactions to condescension can only help you communicate. For more advice on workplace communication, visit PrideStaff.