Author Topic: Can't Tolerate Condescending Relative Any Longer  (Read 9945 times)

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lilblu

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Can't Tolerate Condescending Relative Any Longer
« on: December 02, 2013, 12:26:08 PM »
I'm hoping you all can tell me how I should deal with this particular relative, because they are consistently driving me crazy.

So this relative is actually an in-law. She's been in the family for about 12-13 years and is nice, but there's this other side to her that isn't so nice exactly if you disagree with her. She takes this attitude and you can see that she's getting upset. I can't really explain it. I think she's good at manipulating people and making people feel "small" so that she can feel all superior, except that she does this without people knowing she's done it. She's very odd and I often suspect she has some sort of psychological disorder because of the way she acts. I'll never forget the time when she felt the need to brag over hanging a simple picture on the wall. She also brags that she's the pack leader of her two dogs and that she's in charge of them. There's clearly something wrong with someone who keeps bragging over being the pack leader of their own dogs. Her mother-in-law, who lives with her, also feels the same way as I do.

What happens is that this relative just assumes people (particularly me) are stupid and that she knows more than everyone else. The other day she asked if I was scared to travel on a plane and I said, "no" and said I was worried about my ear bothering me (I have uncommon ear problems). She went on for about 5-10 minutes telling me about air pressure, chewing gum, etc. etc. and said flying on a plane is just like travelling over the mountains in a car, except your ears pop more. Then she's like, I bet you didn't know that, and now you know. Then she was so proud of herself for educating me. Except that I already knew all that. I would think everyone over the age of 20 would know all that, even if they never experienced it. She made light of my ear problems, then treated me like I was stupid. She just assumed that I didn't know anything about travelling by plane. She always does that, she always assumes people are stupid, then she feels so proud and important for educating them. It happens in every conversation I have with her. The more she does it, the more I dislike her. No one in the family likes her because of how she treats people, but we pretend that we like her because what else can we do?

What should I have done when she started telling me stuff I already knew about travelling by plane? And, if she brings up this topic again (she will) and says that she educated me on it (she will) can I just tell her I already knew that stuff but was too polite to say anything? Would that be a bad thing to do? The more she does this to me, the more I feel like I'm losing a piece of myself. She's clearly trying to accomplish something here, I'm just not sure what. We've never quite figured her out.


mrkitty

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Re: Can't Tolerate Condescending Relative Any Longer
« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2013, 12:36:37 PM »
She sounds like a female version of my brother.

I have learned that my brother is almost pathologically insecure. He has the need to feel superior about, well, everything. In conversation, he used to lecture me about EVERYTHING like I'm some kind of idiot who never figured out how to walk and chew gum at the same time, or never heard that shoe laces could actually be tied, and this is how you do it.

I particularly enjoyed his lectures on topics in which I'm well versed, knowing that he was absolutely wrong but would not countenance any kind of pushback on the topic, or suggestion that there might possibly be another explanation or interpretation, etc.

Notice I phrased this in the past tense. We no longer communicate. It just isn't worth it.

I used to feel sorry for him, and figured that with our difficult childhoods, I was doing a kindness by allowing him to do this - at my expense - because I figured it would help him build self-esteem. The problem is that it robbed me of mine, and I had so little to start with. The problem isn't that he didn't have enough self esteem - he had way too much, and it was his maladaptive coping skill for the fact that he was so insecure. That's my opinion, anyway. I'm no therapist.

The bottom line is that I could never figure out how to respond, or get him to change. The thing is, one can't. That other person has to change. My only solution was to get away.

I'd be interested if anyone has better ideas - I'd love to hear them. Maybe I could salvage the relationship with my brother, but I doubt it. It sounds to me like this lady you described is just toxic, and there's no cure for that.

I'm very sorry.
Learn from past. Live in the present. Hope for the future.

cicero

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Re: Can't Tolerate Condescending Relative Any Longer
« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2013, 12:42:14 PM »
other than the gender, i would've thought you were talking about my annoying BIL.

similar to mrkitty - i simply avoid talking to him as much as possible. i haven't done the cut out/direct, because it isn't at that level, but i do my best to avoid him. there have been a few times when i've very firmly and icily informed him that he will *not* be discussing my weight, and that the next time he does i will leave the table (and he did. and i did) and that seemed to help. for a while.

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menley

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Re: Can't Tolerate Condescending Relative Any Longer
« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2013, 12:42:48 PM »
This is exactly like my brother-in-law (sister's husband). I wish I had any help for you - all I've managed to do is learn to nod and say "Mmmm, I see..." whenever he starts going on and on, with a bit of a side-eye to my husband, and then later my husband and I giggle over all the things he said. Knowing that my husband is hearing all of the ridiculousness (and that he'll be on my side about it later) makes it much easier to tolerate.

LB

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Re: Can't Tolerate Condescending Relative Any Longer
« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2013, 12:43:45 PM »
You won't get anything out of telling her that you already knew the information. In my experience, she will either choose not to hear that or she will choose not to believe it. You won't convince her that she didn't do you a huge favor.

But here's the thing. Everyone who knows her well enough to know she has know-it-all tendencies, has an idea what really went on when you and she had that conversation. They suspect it, at least.

While it may not be effective at stopping the behavior, I generally go with the nod, smile and change the subject approach. It's exhausting trying to convince people you know something of the subject when they are only talking to hear themselves anyway.

cwm

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Re: Can't Tolerate Condescending Relative Any Longer
« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2013, 01:13:31 PM »
Snarky cwm would wait until KnowItAll started talking about a subject that I knew a lot about, especially one in which there are common misconceptions. Then lecture her all about it, and how it's weird that most people think that, but in all actuality this is closer to what actually happened. Snarky cwm may have even steered conversation toward such obscure topics in the past with her own family members. Polite? No. But said family members never again tried to lecture me about classical music.

The polite response is to drop the rope. Walk away. If she's lecturing you on the ears and planes again, just a quick response when she takes a breath of, "Oh, I got all the advice I need from my doctor, thanks." Turn around and remove yourself from the situation. In other lectures, find a similar phrase to use. Excuse yourself to get a drink, or to go to the bathroom. And if she follows you and keeps lecturing, you won't be the one who looks rude.

Here's the thing, it's not your responsibility to keep her from getting mad. This is an adult. It should be on her to have enough emotional stability to handle people not fawning over her every word. If she gets mad when you don't listen, that is her problem, not yours. And you said her MIL can see how wrong her attitude is. I promise you, other people can see it too.

JoyinVirginia

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Re: Can't Tolerate Condescending Relative Any Longer
« Reply #6 on: December 02, 2013, 01:15:02 PM »
Sometimes you can shut down folks like this by mentioning a higher authority you have consulted.
” oh, in law, let me stop you, my doctor has already discussed this with me.”
”in law, actually I know all that already, it is information the ENT specialist gave me.”
Yawn. Seriously, yawn or look away or start planning your shopping list while she is doing this, if you can't avoid her completely.

Hmmmmm

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Re: Can't Tolerate Condescending Relative Any Longer
« Reply #7 on: December 02, 2013, 01:31:03 PM »
When I run into these people, I realize that the reason they brag about things you think are common activities or experss knowledge you think everyone knows, it's usually because they have a pretty sheltered existence. She at some point probably heard that when training your dogs you should make sure they know you are the pack leader. She thought that was really, really interesting and unique so fixates on it. Or she might have recently learned about air pressure and because she just learned it she assumes everyone else did.

I once had a co-worker like this. I used to pretend she was an alien from another planet so everything that she came across was knew to her. This was during the time that Third Rock from the Sun was on TV so I always thought of her as the female version of John Lithgow's character and I started playing the part of Jane Curtin's character when I interacted with her.

bloo

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Re: Can't Tolerate Condescending Relative Any Longer
« Reply #8 on: December 02, 2013, 01:39:05 PM »
When I run into these people, I realize that the reason they brag about things you think are common activities or experss knowledge you think everyone knows, it's usually because they have a pretty sheltered existence. She at some point probably heard that when training your dogs you should make sure they know you are the pack leader. She thought that was really, really interesting and unique so fixates on it. Or she might have recently learned about air pressure and because she just learned it she assumes everyone else did.

I once had a co-worker like this. I used to pretend she was an alien from another planet so everything that she came across was knew to her. This was during the time that Third Rock from the Sun was on TV so I always thought of her as the female version of John Lithgow's character and I started playing the part of Jane Curtin's character when I interacted with her.

This had me lol'ing because I loved that interaction of those two characters from that show! :)

I would be so tempted, if I was OP, to play a game with KnowItAll:

KIA: Did you know X?
Me: I know.
KIA: Did you know Y?
Me: I know.
KIA: Did you know how A and B interact to make C?
Me: (bored tone) I know.
KIA: Hah! I was testing you. C and B really interact to make A!
Me: (even more bored) I know that too.
KIA: (confused) Are you okay?
Me: I know.

Seriously, just 'know' everything she says. Eventually she'll wander away and grace someone else with her wisdom.

LB

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Re: Can't Tolerate Condescending Relative Any Longer
« Reply #9 on: December 02, 2013, 01:39:58 PM »
I once had a co-worker like this. I used to pretend she was an alien from another planet so everything that she came across was knew to her. This was during the time that Third Rock from the Sun was on TV so I always thought of her as the female version of John Lithgow's character and I started playing the part of Jane Curtin's character when I interacted with her.

This is beautiful!  ;D

Zizi-K

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Re: Can't Tolerate Condescending Relative Any Longer
« Reply #10 on: December 02, 2013, 01:53:39 PM »
I'm curious whether you all believe that the only polite way to deal with these kinds of people is to humor them or ignore them?

Maybe because I'm not someone who avoids conflict, but I actually have a lot of fun taking this kind of thing on. My DH is nothing like these people, but once in a while I get the sense that he is "man-splaining" something to me. He does have a lot of knowledge about certain things, but I've heard a lot of it before and have some knowledge of my own. So, I will just say to him, "I know that, and I feel like you're mansplaining that to me. Could you stop please?"  Once in a great while, he'll get obsessed with giving me really particular instructions for how to do something. I will interject with, "Oh, would you mind also adding in the places where I'm supposed to breathe? Because I might not do it if you don't tell me exactly how and when." Yes, it is snarky and sarcastic, but I only go there when my polite/earnest requests are ignored. Luckily it's quite rare.



LB

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Re: Can't Tolerate Condescending Relative Any Longer
« Reply #11 on: December 02, 2013, 02:07:32 PM »
I'm curious whether you all believe that the only polite way to deal with these kinds of people is to humor them or ignore them?

No. But for me, it feels the most efficient. I don't like explaining to someone that they are being condecending. Even if I can it out politely. It feels like a waste of energy to me. I don't really ignore people who are speaking directly to me though. I look uninterested and change the subject at the first chance.

mrkitty

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Re: Can't Tolerate Condescending Relative Any Longer
« Reply #12 on: December 02, 2013, 02:10:28 PM »
I'm curious whether you all believe that the only polite way to deal with these kinds of people is to humor them or ignore them?

Maybe because I'm not someone who avoids conflict, but I actually have a lot of fun taking this kind of thing on. My DH is nothing like these people, but once in a while I get the sense that he is "man-splaining" something to me. He does have a lot of knowledge about certain things, but I've heard a lot of it before and have some knowledge of my own. So, I will just say to him, "I know that, and I feel like you're mansplaining that to me. Could you stop please?"  Once in a great while, he'll get obsessed with giving me really particular instructions for how to do something. I will interject with, "Oh, would you mind also adding in the places where I'm supposed to breathe? Because I might not do it if you don't tell me exactly how and when." Yes, it is snarky and sarcastic, but I only go there when my polite/earnest requests are ignored. Luckily it's quite rare.

Yeah, but you're not married to a boorish bacon-fed knave.

Your husband sounds very different from my brother, or the woman the OP described. You had the ability to interject something. People like my brother talk longer and louder than anyone - there is no chance to say anything when they get on their rant or screed or whatever it is they're doing. It's like they don't breathe. And when you try to interject, they just raise the volume until you're frantically trying to figure out a way out of the "conversation." (A term which I use loosely, considering that the word conversation implies that both parties are able to participate.)

This goes beyond "mansplaining", which, obnoxious though it is, can be dealt with.

People like those the OP described transcend mansplaining and are in an entirely different ozone layer of goofiness.

Not to mention that people like my brother become downright hostile if you don't give them their due attention. It's hard to explain. Sometimes, it's just safer/less unpleasant/takes less time to humor them for the several minutes they go on until they wind down. If you engage them too much, or "interrupt" (and by interrupt what I really mean is "try to participate in a conversational back-and-forth;" they don't see it like that. Any attempt to do so is deemed by them a rude and pointless interruption that they have to correct by explaining - again and FROM THE BEGINNING - the entire premise of their argument and all the details they are now sure you haven't heard/understood adequately enough, because obviously you had to interrupt) them, it becomes very, very unpleasant and can turn into a hostile environment very quickly.

See, the truth is, I used to think that bullies like my brother were just cowards in wolf's clothing. So I tried bullying him back. And it worked, but it was exhausting, was extremely unpleasant, and I didn't like myself. Turning into a bully oneself is not a sustainable solution. It merely robbed me of the precious little self-esteem I had left.

Humoring him didn't work, either. It just enables them. They take it as an invitation to enlighten you.

Unless there is a middle ground, or some kind of spray you can use to get them to SHUT UP for a minute, I don't see a solution other than to acknowledge that they are just obnoxious and incapable of polite discourse, and avoid when possible.

The only other thing to do, if on the phone, is to press some buttons on the phone - that's the only thing loud enough to break through their incessant verbal chattering - and tell them the oven's on fire and you have to leave now, AND THEN HANG UP because otherwise they'll lecture you about fire safety and tell you how badly you cook and blah blah blah.

If in person, you need to fake a heart attack, and hope the ambulance crew will be kind enough to let you off at the nearest bar, or jail, since it's a crime, but worth the punishment, because jail would be more comfortable than taking any more condescending carp.
« Last Edit: December 02, 2013, 02:20:50 PM by mrkitty »
Learn from past. Live in the present. Hope for the future.

cwm

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Re: Can't Tolerate Condescending Relative Any Longer
« Reply #13 on: December 02, 2013, 02:16:35 PM »
I'm curious whether you all believe that the only polite way to deal with these kinds of people is to humor them or ignore them?

The only polite way? No. The easiest polite way? Yes.

Most of my relatives, and several of my ex boyfriends' relatives were like this. Come to think of it, so were several of my exes. I tried talking to them about how upset it made me that they didn't think I could make a peanut butter sandwich on my own because they explained it in detail to me. It didn't change anything. I tried beandipping. No good. They'd just latch on to whatever I changed the topic to, because they were an expert in that as well. I tried humoring them, which for me only led them to think that I must be interested and stupid as a rock, because I listened to them about anything. The only polite response I've found that worked for me was to disengage and walk away. I had to excuse myself five or six times an hour at a family holiday party because my aunt was convinced she knew more about my college course load than I did. Walking away eventually showed them that I wasn't interested without any sort of conflict on anyone's part. It's now my first step when I meet these people, because I have a track record that works.

bloo

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Re: Can't Tolerate Condescending Relative Any Longer
« Reply #14 on: December 02, 2013, 02:20:57 PM »
Slight thread-jack:

What is 'man-splaining'?

I seem to vaguely recall some offense being taken at the use of the term (and a possible threadlock) but apparently I'm not allowed to search for posts so I couldn't hunt it down.

I don't remember what it means.