Anyone Who Uses These 11 Phrases Is Probably Arrogant and Condescending

Our words have the power to build people up or put them down, often without us even realizing it. It’s not just what we say, but how we say it that can make someone come off as arrogant and condescending. You’ve probably come across people who seem to have a knack for saying things that leave a bad taste in your mouth, and it might be down to their choice of words. Here’s a look at 10 phrases that, when used often or in certain contexts, might suggest that the person saying them is pretty arrogant and condescending.

1. “I’m not trying to brag, but…”

This phrase always comes before a boast or humblebrag, which ironically is exactly what the person claims they’re not doing. It’s like a red flag that signals the upcoming message is going to be self-serving. The person may believe they’re softening the blow of a boast, but in reality, they’re usually just shining a spotlight on their own achievements. It’s important for them to recognize that their accomplishments can be shared without needing to downplay or excuse their success.

2. “Sure, if that’s what you think is best.”

This one’s a classic example of passive aggression. On the surface, it seems like agreement, but the undertone is patronizing and implies that they believe they know better. It’s a subtle way of undermining someone’s decision without outright saying it’s wrong. If someone genuinely believes there’s a better option, it’s more constructive to directly present their case rather than disguising dissent as support.

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4. “Everyone knows that.”

Claiming that “everyone knows” something is a quick way to dismiss someone else’s comment or question as trivial or silly. It can make the other person feel out of the loop or belittled. Obviously, not everyone knows everything (not even the arrogant person insinuating otherwise), and it’s perfectly okay to ask questions or make statements without worrying that you’re going to be judged or spoken down to like an idiot. A more empathetic approach would be for the person to share a bit more information without making assumptions about what is or isn’t common knowledge.

5. “You’re missing the point.”

When someone uses this phrase, they’re basically saying outright that the other person doesn’t understand the situation. While it may be true that there’s a misunderstanding, saying it like this can come off as dismissive and superior. It shuts down the conversation and tells the other person that their perspective is not valid. A better tactic would be to explain their own viewpoint more clearly and ask for the other’s thoughts to encourage a two-way dialogue. Otherwise, they’re being arrogant and condescending.

6. “It’s not rocket science.”

If hearing this doesn’t make you actively dislike someone, you’re a better person than most because it’s seriously obnoxious. This saying trivializes whatever task or concept is being discussed, suggesting it should be easy for anyone to understand or do. It’s often used to belittle someone’s intelligence or efforts and it just paints the person saying it as a jerk. Everyone has different strengths and learning speeds, and what may be simple for one person can be challenging for another. Patience and encouragement are key in helping others without making them feel inadequate.

7. “Well, in my experience…”

This phrase isn’t inherently negative, but it can come across as arrogant and condescending if used to dismiss someone else’s viewpoint. It implies that their experience is the only relevant or valid one. While personal experience is obviously valuable, it’s also important to acknowledge that other people have their own unique insights that can be just as valid. Sharing experiences as a way to add to the conversation, not overshadow it, is a much better approach (and a more inclusive one, to boot).

8. “You can do better than that.”

On the surface, this might sound like encouragement, but it often carries an undertone of disappointment or judgment. It implies that the current effort isn’t good enough and that they hold the authority to judge what counts as “better.” Constructive criticism and feedback can be really helpful, obviously, but it should be given in a way that fosters growth and confidence, not in a way that diminishes someone’s current efforts.

9. “I’m sure you did your best.”

At times, this can be a genuine consolation, but it can also be patronizing, especially if the tone doesn’t match the sentiment. It can sound like they’ve set low expectations and are surprised that the person managed to meet even those. A more supportive approach is to recognize specific strengths in what someone has done and offer constructive ways to improve without generalizing their effort as simply the “best they could do.”

10. “It’s a pretty common mistake, don’t worry about it.”

When someone says this, it might seem like they’re trying to make the other person feel better about a mistake. However, it can also imply that the mistake was too obvious or foolish to make. It’s a way of saying, “You should have known better,” without using those exact words. Encouragement should be genuine and without a hint of belittlement, focusing on how the mistake is an opportunity for learning and growth.

11. “No offense, but…”

This is perhaps one of the most transparently condescending phrases in the conversational toolkit. Prefacing a statement with “no offense” doesn’t make what they say next any less offensive. It’s a clear indicator that they’rer well aware that they’re about to be offensive but don’t care — they’re going to say it anyway. If there’s a need to offer criticism, it should be done respectfully and constructively, without the pretense of it being non-offensive.

12. “I guess it’s good enough for now.”

The word “guess” and the phrase “for now” combine to form a backhanded compliment. It suggests that the work done is barely meeting the minimum standards and that it’s only a temporary fix rather than a satisfactory solution. True encouragement acknowledges the value of the work as it stands, while also leaving room for future improvement if necessary.

Sinead Cafferty is a writer who has authored four collections of poetry: "Dust Settling" (2012); "The Space Between" (2014); "Under, Under, Over" (2016); and "What You Can't Have" (2020). She's currently working on her first novel, a dystopian romance set in the 22nd Century, that's due out in 2024.

Sinead has an MFA in creative writing from NYU and has had residencies with the Vermont Studio Center and the National Center for Writing.