I actually said this to someone the other night.
This is a woman I don't know very well -- I always have to stop and think of her name, which isn't April, but that's what I will call her. They moved here about 10 years ago. I can't say I dislike April; I don't know her well enough, and probably she's a really good person. But I always have an uncomfortable feeling around her, like she is insincere or competitive, you know? And there is definitely a kind of smug vibe, too.
So the other night we were coming out of the same movie as April and her husband, who were with another couple I also know only slightly, had seen. We had stayed to the very end of the credits, but they hadn't, and April said a couple of comments like, "What were you two doing in there until now?" and "Do you think you're going to miss something important" -- I really don't remember what; nothing bad, it just sort of had the feeling of someone who feels the need to prove that SHE didn't miss anything by not staying.
The thing that annoyed us, though, was a bit later. April told us they had just come back from a trip to [South American Destination]. We were sincerely impressed and interested and asked an enthusiastic question or two. I was hoping that my husband wouldn't, because I saw this coming, but a little later (after the subject had been changed to something else) he mentioned that we have a trip planned to [Different South American Destination] in the spring. April's face immediately clouded over and she said, "Oh ... well ... John and Jane went there last year, and they had a terrible experience. What company are you using?" I told her truthfully that I didn't know, as my brother had planned the trip.
[I should explain here that this was without knowing anything about the type of trip we were planning -- it was practically like saying "We are going on a cruise" or "we are going to Europe" for all the detail she had. I'm sure that this one negative experience someone had wasn't the only thing she'd ever heard about our destination. We both felt very strongly that it was just a reflex to throw cold water on whatever other people are doing that she isn't. And we don't think it was because it was us; she doesn't really know us well enough to care that much either to want to insult us or to worry about our vacation.]
She continued on in the same vein a little, and we just didn't know how to respond, but she stood there looking at me waiting for a defense of our plans. Awkward pause. (What I wanted to say was, "You know, it should tell you something about yourself that I absolutely knew you were going to say something negative about our trip.") Finally I broke the silence with "Well, it's nice of you to take an interest."
But I did NOT say it frostily or with a hard stare or rigid smile. I wanted it to sound sincere, not like a formula that obviously means "You are so rude!"
And I'm really glad. Because what happened next was that I could see on her face that she knows what that phrase really means, and she caught herself and said, "Oh .... You know, I really shouldn't have said that. I'm sure you'll have a great trip!"
By saying it nicely, I let her keep her dignity. I wasn't out to teach her a lesson, I just wanted to get out of there. But it seemed like maybe she did kind of see her own behavior without getting distracted by feeling attacked and humiliated. I'm sure if I had done it in a snarky way, she would not have apologized, at least not sincerely.